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McCullough brings trapping ban to House committee

OBSERVER STAFF REPORT

A bill introduced by Williston Rep. Jim McCullough that would ban almost all animal trapping and hounding in Vermont had a hearing last week in the Vermont House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee. McCullough is the vice chair of the committee.

“This bill (H.172) is going to ban trapping in the State of Vermont with the exception of defense of property,” McCullough said. “There are no exceptions for bear hounding.”

Trapping animals with body gripping traps is allowed in Vermont during the winter months. Trappers typically target foxes, coyotes, beavers and bobcats. Opponents of the practice say it is inhumane and point out that other animals, including household pets, are occasionally caught in the traps. Hounding is the practice of using dogs to hunt black bears.

About 240 Williston residents signed a petition in December asking the Williston Selectboard to ban trapping in town. The petition drive began after a coyote was found illegally trapped on town-owned land off of Williston Road. The trap was set illegally because the trapper failed to get permission from the landowner, as required by state law.

After receiving the petition, Town Manager Erik Wells said the town would deny any future request for trapping on town-owned land.

In testimony about the House bill, McCullough said he had received 472 emails in support of the ban.

In a subsequent notice to supporters, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs wrote:

“Only 472 emails? Since it is apparent that Rep. McCullough thinks that hearing from 0.07% of Vermonters is enough to influence the committee, let’s slam them with thousands.”

Gov. Phil Scott, in a press conference last week, said H.172 may not get out of committee or be sent over to the Senate this year.

“We continue to review some of our traditions,” he said.

A related bill, H.316, would clarify that a hunter using dogs to hunt black bears must retain visual and verbal control over the dogs while hunting.

Another related bill, H.411, would “establish standards for the retrieval and disposal of certain wild animals that are intentionally killed.”

Guy Page of the Vermont Daily Chronicle contributed to this report.