A conflict this weekend between hunters and property owners in northeastern Vermont has reignited calls from animal advocates for more regulations.
Groups including Protect Our Wildlife and the Vermont Coyote Coexistence Coalition have been regularly advocating for Vermont to follow the lead of Massachusetts and set a formal season on the killing of coyotes.
Their multi-year campaigns added a new supporter after a scene that played out Saturday morning in the backyard of Diana Hansen of Craftsbury.
"It was, particularly for me, extremely traumatic," Hansen told necn Tuesday.
Hansen said a hunter set his dogs on a coyote, and they chased the animal into Hansen's backyard — biting and bloodying the coyote as her young children watched from a rear window, horrified.
"It was incredibly disturbing to see that kind of violence happening," Hansen said.
The mom said the coyote pursuit also caused around $500 in damage to the family's greenhouse when the dogs and their target climbed on the greenhouse, puncturing its plastic with their claws.
It is legal to hunt coyotes with hounds year-round in Vermont, but animal advocacy groups often criticize the practice.
"The use of hounds in hunting is really concerning," said Barry Londeree of the Humane Society of the United States.
The Humane Society, along with Protect Our Wildlife and the Vermont Coyote Coexistence Coalition, wants to see tighter regulations in the state, including a specific hunting season for coyotes.
Londeree said the animals have an important role in the ecosystem, including preying on rodents like mice and rats.
"They shouldn't be subject to year-round hunting with no limits," Londeree said of coyotes.
For a response to the advocacy groups' calls for a defined hunting season on coyotes, with limits, necn sought an interview with the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife.
However, the department's commissioner, Louis Porter, declined to comment — even in general terms — citing an ongoing Vermont State Police investigation into this weekend's case in Craftsbury.
Mike Covey, the executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said the coalition opposes changes to the coyote hunt or any restrictions that would alter the way houndsmen enjoy the outdoors.
"There are social aspects of it, in terms of it's family time," Covey said of hunting with hounds. "A lot of these folks take their kids out with them. It's something they grew up doing with their parents; it's something their children are growing up doing with them. They have a very strong connection to the dogs."
Covey noted that he feels houndsmen have been vilified in social media discussions on coyote hunting regulations, saying he sees them as a group that cares about the landscape of Vermont.
Covey also said the coyote population is healthy and abundant in Vermont, arguing that restrictions on hunting are not needed at this time.
"If there's no biological imperative to shorten the season, then we shouldn't be doing it," Covey said.
As for Hansen, she said she has researched how to register her private land formally as not being a place to hunt, and plans to push for a local town ordinance that could address hound hunting.
Hansen told necn she hopes to spare a neighbor the kind of animal bloodshed and damage that came into her quiet backyard this weekend.
"It's kind of frightening," Hansen said. "Something has to be regulated."
Londeree was at the Vermont State House Tuesday advocating for a bill that would crack down on what he termed wanton and wasteful hunting — such as the leaving of dead animals to rot in the woods or the killing of animals without a purpose, like harvesting meat to feed people.