FWC prohibits chasing foxes/coyotes with dogs within enclosures, reminds Florida hunters of other options

September 1, 2010

The rule defines an “enclosure” as an area of land enclosed in such a manner as to prevent the natural ingress or egress of a fox or coyote

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a final rule Sept. 1 permanently prohibiting the chasing of foxes and coyotes with dogs within an enclosure in Florida.

The FWC has worked on this issue for more than a year, and the practice was temporarily prohibited in February.

Maj. Curtis Brown, head of the FWC’s Captive Wildlife and Investigations Section, presented the final rule and provided some options for hunters.

“Coyotes and certain other nonprotected furbearers can still be taken year-round using several methods, including dogs,” Brown said. “This can occur on open private lands and in specific wildlife management areas.”

The rule defines an “enclosure” as an area of land enclosed in such a manner as to prevent the natural ingress or egress of a fox or coyote.

“This is not about taking away hunting opportunities,” said Chairman Rodney Barreto. “I’m a big believer in fair chase, and I have a list of places where hunters can still engage in those activities.”

Prior to the meeting, staff met with the fox and coyote enclosure owners to discuss options for disposition of the animals currently in possession. Red foxes and coyotes may be possessed as pets with the appropriate permits, trapped and sold to other permitted entities in Florida, captured and transferred to wildlife rehabilitation facilities or humanely euthanized.

“This is not a referendum on hunting – we are a pro-hunting commission,” Commissioner Brian Yablonski added. “It is a question of fair chase and protecting the essence of hunting.”

Eighteen members of the public spoke. They represented organizations on both sides of the issue, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, Big Cat Rescue, National Foxhunters’ Association, Big Bend Fox Hunters’ Association, Training not Torture and the Humane Society of the United States. Two state representatives, Rep. Marlene O’Toole and Rep. Greg Evers also spoke.

Public input on the recommendation to permanently prohibit the enclosures varied from stating that “the prohibition preserves the true sportsmanship that hunting is all about” to saying that “legitimate fox and coyote hunters have been misrepresented on the issue.”

Deliberations over this issue began last September, when Commissioners directed the agency’s law enforcement staff to review the permitting process and research the history and numbers of fox/coyote enclosures in the state.
At the February meeting, commissioners agreed to temporarily prohibit the practice. FWC staff was directed to work with stakeholders to address certain issues of concern regarding the enclosures and to draft proposed rules for the Commission’s consideration.

Wednesday’s action by the Commission brings a resolution to the issue.

Temporary prohibition of the chasing of foxes and coyotes with dogs within enclosures is already in effect from February’s Executive Order. The permanent prohibition will replace the temporary one and take effect once the rule has gone through the proper administrative procedures.