Dan Galdenzi: Vermont could give wildlife a voice, for once

This commentary is by Dan Galdenzi, a resident of Stowe.

It is a rare but hopeful time for wildlife in this Vermont legislative session. Between the House and the Senate, they have proposed five bills that will directly or indirectly make incremental gains in the protection of Vermont’s wildlife.

These are not contentious topics, although a very small but vocal chorus of voices would like us to believe that they are.

For example, there is a Senate bill, S.281, that seeks to ban the hounding of coyotes. What is that, and why would anyone do it? It’s the “sport” of having roughly six hounds, outfitted with GPS radio collars, that are trained to chase and kill coyotes. There is no reason to do it, other than for fun, thrill, hobby, and the old standby when no other reason seems to stick, “heritage.” As if animal fighting is somehow this wholesome heritage in Vermont.

This is carried out by mostly violent people who track their hounds by their radio signal and then videotape and jeer and joke as their pack of dogs kill the coyote in a brutal, slow death. It’s no different from what Michael Vick was doing, and he served prison time for it.

Another Senate bill, S.201, seeks to ban leghold traps. This needs no explanation, of course. Antiquated and barbaric, done for hobby, fun, and of course “heritage.” It doesn’t go as far as banning all trapping in Vermont, so it defuses the argument made by the trapping community, with tongue in cheek, about how they care about wildlife management best practices.

On the House side, there is a bill, H.411, that seeks to ban wanton waste. This is the hunting and trapping of wildlife with no intention to use it for meat, fur, hide, feathers or taxidermy. Again, something that should in no way be contentious, except for a small group of people that like to kill animals for fun. Now prominently, crows and coyotes.

There is even a carve-out to kill wildlife in defense of the property, which covers any reasonable concerns. The only parties interested in preventing this bill are hunting and trapping lobbyists, who, make no mistake, have the ear of the Fish & Wildlife Department.

Maybe most importantly, back on the Senate side, there is bill S.129 that seeks to make the Fish & Wildlife Board advisory only. The Fish & Wildlife Board is made up of 14 members who represent each of the 14 counties in Vermont. They are political appointees with no competency requirements other than being hunters, trappers or anglers.

The concept of our wildlife being a public trust, for viewing, photographing, or any form of nonlethal activities, is antithetical to the Fish & Wildlife Board’s mission. In fact, the board has actively fought and rejected every single wildlife protection petition brought to it, while counterintuitively spending countless staff hours and Vermont taxpayers’ money on a petition to recreationally trap more otters. Not surprisingly, they voted in favor of expanding otter trapping.

Bill S.129 seeks to create a structure where the Fish & Wildlife Board will be just one voice among several advisory voices, all in their own respective interest of our wildlife and biodiversity in Vermont.

What we need now is for ethical hunters to stand up for their hunting tradition. The image of a father and child, dressed in orange, going out hunting for deer or turkey to put food on the table is not what these bills are about.

They are about stopping the now egregious and unnecessary forms of wildlife killing. By not supporting or remaining silent on these bills, the hunting community will only risk further corroding its image and continue to lose interest in the new hunters they so desperately want to attract.

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Tags: Dan Galdenzi, H.411, hounding coyotes, leghold traps, S.129, S.201, S.281, wanton waste, wildlife


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