Alana Stevenson: Do you care about wildlife? Look at your governor

This commentary is from Alana Stevenson, an animal behaviorist who lives in Charlotte.

Many Vermonters do not know how the wildlife in Vermont is managed. We tend to think of Vermont as picturesque, eco-friendly, and progressive. In reality, when it comes to wildlife, animals and the environment, Vermont is way behind many other states.

In fact, there are no wildlife shelters in Vermont. The minimal restrictions that may exist are rarely enforced. If there is enforcement, the consequences are minor to non-existent.

How is Vermont’s wildlife managed? As it stands, it is not democratic at all. The Commissioner for Fish and Wildlife — who decides how the Department of Fish & Wildlife operates, conducts policies, and how the rules are enforced — is elected by the governor. Our current governor is for hunt, catch and hunt. He has publicly stated that if a trapping ban is passed, he will veto it (I hope if that happens, the legislature will veto it).

The governor also elects the Fish & Wildlife Board. The Fish & Wildlife Board oversees and creates all protections and regulations related to wildlife. The board members can put Fish & Wildlife biologists aside. The members of the Fish & Wildlife Board are a small group of hunters, hunters and trappers. They are not voted for. They don’t have to post their resume. They are not required to have degrees in environmental science, wildlife biology, conservation or any other related field. They are not scientists.

The bottom line is that the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is self-regulating. Those who hunt, trap and hunt create their own rules that they follow and enforce. They can make the non-hunting public adhere to a very different set of standards, and they do. These double standards have no scientific basis and are often irrational as well as unethical.

Here are just some of the current issues with the way Vermont Fish & Wildlife works.

  • Wild animals are not given any protection with how they are treated.
  • There is not one vet on the ward.
  • The public should not “touch” or help “rabies vector” species such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc. Still, hunters and trappers can physically attack, beat, hang and skin these same animals – no vaccinations required and without restraint.
  • If you have a hunting or catching permit, you can hit, stab and club an animal and then leave that animal helpless and injured.
  • If you are a wildlife rehabber, you are not allowed to help most of the animals in Vermont. You should not help young or adult skunks, raccoons, foxes, deer, coyotes and many other animals – even if you are vaccinated and even if you are a veterinarian.

When members of the public find an injured wild animal, Fish & Wildlife tells them to “let nature take its course”. But most injuries in the wild are human-inflicted. Nature did not cause them. People did that.

Nature did not put an arrow in the head of a deer and let that deer work alone, nor did she injure a wild animal by hitting it with a car or orphan a baby animal by shooting or running over its animal . mother.

Wildlife rehabbers are inundated with calls from people seeking to help injured and orphaned wildlife. If someone calls the Fish & Wildlife Department, they are told to make the animal suffer or kill it in a barbaric way, such as beating, drowning or gassing.

Wildlife rehabbers are required to report regularly. They have many restrictions imposed by Vermont Fish & Wildlife. If they don’t follow these restrictions, they will lose their licenses. Yet trappers and hunters do not have to report at all, even if they kill, maim or injure endangered or companion animals.

The public is expected to maintain control of their dogs. Dogs are not allowed to chase or attack wildlife and can be shot for hunting wildlife. However, hounders can release packs of dogs, unsupervised and without reluctance to chase and attack wild animals in the forests where they live. In addition, dogs can be hunted all year round and there are training seasons when bears, raccoons, bobcats and other animals nurse their young.

Apart from the horrific cruelty to animals that are victims of dogs, hunting poses a serious safety risk to humans. If you and your companions or pets are attacked by dogs, there is nothing you can do. It’s legal in Vermont.

Homeowners and property owners have no say in whether or not hounders are welcome on their property. Hunders can come from out of state, let their dogs run on your private property, even if it’s posted, and then leave. There are no consequences.

Dogs used for hunting are pawns for recreation. The training is not advanced, as it is adapted for dog fighting. Dogs are often neglected and live in cages and kennels all year round. They are left behind and killed when they are no longer useful. Animal protection laws in Vermont regarding dogs don’t seem to apply to hunting dogs.

Vermont gamekeepers post pictures of themselves with animals they’ve killed on social media. A Vermont game warden has shared photos of him laughing with a bloodied coyote surrounded by exhausted hunting dogs. If these are the gamekeepers who oversee and enforce conservation and hunting regulations, what does that say about the way the department is managed and run?

Those who care about animals are traumatized by the lack of laws in Vermont and how horribly wild animals are treated. Those who want to help wildlife are restricted or prohibited from doing so. But for hunters, trappers and hunters it’s the Wild West and “anything goes”.

The former wildlife commissioner stated publicly that the Fish & Wildlife Department does only what the Vermont legislature allows. The Vermont legislature has provided for hunting dogs, fur trappers, and people who enjoy hunting for recreation. The Vermont legislature has not listened to private landowners and homeowners, non-hunters, conservationists, bird watchers, hikers, ethical farmers or animal advocates, nor does it appear to care about the treatment and protection of wildlife. This must change.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board should be abolished completely, or voted in democratically, as should the Fish & Wildlife Commissioner. If the governor doesn’t want to catch up with current science and ethics in how wildlife is managed and how wild animals are treated, and if he doesn’t care about the rights of property owners protecting themselves from hunting dogs and irresponsible hunters, then Vermonters must vote for a new governor.

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Keywords: Alana StevensonhuntershunterstrappersVermont Fish & Wldlifewild animals


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