The hypocrisy of Fish & Wildlife, the board, and the trappers association


Dear Editor,

Wildlife rehabbers in Vermont use their own money, need education and to pass an exam to become licensed. But they are severely restricted by the Fish & Wildlife Dept. and board on what animals they can see and scrupulouslymonitored for any violation. Nearly all wild animals in Vermont are off-limits to assist, even if they are injured due to deliberate human cruelty. The majority of ailments and injuries wild animals suffer from are caused by people. Research can attest to this. Yet, Fish & Wildlife still penalize those who try to aide wildlife. ‘Let nature take its course,’ they say.

Animals suffer from mange due to rodenticides and bait boxes. They are displaced and scavenge for food due to development. Birds suffer from window collisions, pesticide-laced lawns, and native plants being replaced with non-natives for lawns and gardens. Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, which causes severe eye infections in wild birds, originated from chicken farms.

With its fear mongering and faux concern for public safety, Fish & Wildlife restricts those who can touch or handle ‘rabies vector’ animals. (By the way, people are rabies vectors, too). Even veterinarians and those vaccinated are not permitted to help these animals. If you try to assist any creature labeled a ‘rabies vector’ without gloves, the department can kill it. The stunning hypocrisy is that those with hunting, hounding, and trapping licenses,routinely gut these animals, step on them, scruff them (grabbing an animal by the back of the neck), skin them, and come in contact with their bodily fluids without restrictions or repercussions.

The Fish & Wildlife Dept. and board monopolize wildlife to suit those with hunting, hounding, and trapping licenses. For those with licenses, including pest control operators, there are no rules on handling ‘rabies vector’ animals. If you want to bludgeon, dismember, hang, or suffocate them, the department and board have your back. If you have a trapping or hounding license, you’re in the club. No gloves or vaccinations are necessary.

Animals in pain or when attacked are defensive and far more likely to bite. Nevertheless, there are no rabies vaccination requirements for trappers or hounders. There seems to be no concern for hounds bitten by animals considered ‘rabies vectors.’ Trappers post pictures of themselves holding dead rabies vector species with bare hands. Hounders post photos of themselves with bloodied hounds and mutilated coyotes.

To the commissioner and Fish and Wildlife Board, I see you. I see the hypocrisy and lunacy of the department’s policies and the board’s behavior, and the cowardice of some legislators to take on Vermont’s hounding and trapping culture, despite how irrational it is.

There are no criteria for being on the board other than holding a fishing, trapping, or hounding license and being friends with the governor. The same goes for the commissioner. No knowledge of wildlife biology, conservation, biodiversity, or ecology. Those on the board don’t even need a high school diploma.

Conventional methods used in wildlife management and research frequently cause harm to the animals studied. Stressful chase and capture methods, often with the use of body-gripping traps, toe and fin clipping, hot-or-freeze branding, and invasive tissue sampling all cause pain and injury. These methods are standard and routine. Most of Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s ‘research’ on wild animal populations comes from trappers’ reports on animals they catch. That hardly seems like a scientific assessment.

Vermont wildlife, especially on public land, belongs to everyone. You should have a right to walk your dog, hike, mountain-bike, bird watch, camp, kayak, swim, or peacefully walk in the woods and enjoy wildlife without having to contort to the whims of hounders and trappers. It’s not their land. It’s not their wildlife. They are not stewards.

There are two bills pending this year, S. 258 and H. 323, that are vital to support. S. 258 will make the Fish and Wildlife Board more democratic and H. 323 will ban the hounding of coyotes and bears. Hounders and trappers cry that their ‘rights’ are being stripped away. It would be comical if it wasn’t so manipulative and hypocritical.

Coyote and bear hounding, and hounding of all large game animals, has to end. It is gratuitous cruelty. It’s animal fighting and puts people and farmed and domesticated animals at risk.  Call your legislators to support S. 258 and H. 323.

Alana Stevenson, Charlotte

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