In response to the 24/7/365 killing of coyotes in VT (called "open season" by Fish and Wildlife), a group of Vermont law students has submitted a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Board requesting that they institute a regulated hunting season on coyotes.
Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Board will review the law students’ petition and take public comments sometime this summer. Please plan to attend the Fish and Wildlife Board meeting (we will send an alert when the board sets a date).
Last year, Vermonters helped put an end to brutal coyote killing contests. But coyotes can still be killed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a fact that many of us know all too well. Coyote hunters, often accompanied by hounds, regularly trespass on posted land, damage property, and, tragically this year, killed a family’s beloved dog after mistaking her for a coyote.
A regulated hunting season would give coyotes a brief respite from hunting during part of the year. The proposed regulated season would NOT affect a person's right to kill a coyote for reasons of self-defense or protection of property.
In their letter to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board, the Vermont law students wrote, "It is our belief that the current coyote hunting season is neither based on the best-available science, nor rooted in sound wildlife management. Peer-reviewed research indicates that wanton killing of coyotes does three things: 1) increases breeding; 2) causes vacated territories that will soon be inhabited by new packs; and 3) causes pack instability, which may present new problems where there previously were none."
Why Coyote Pack Stability Matters More Than Population
Coyote hunters have responded to the petition by saying 24/7 killing doesn't hurt the coyote population. However, population alone does not determine the health of local coyotes. Coyotes practice responsive reproduction, so they are able to quickly increase their population when threatened. For example, when one or both of the monogamous breeding pair are killed, younger coyotes in the pack, who might otherwise stay with their parents and remain functionally sterile for up to four years, disperse and begin breeding. And surviving females in an area where coyotes are being hunted heavily will have larger than normal litters.
Constant hunting at all times of the day and night means it is nearly impossible for coyotes, who are highly social animals, to maintain stable packs (a coyote pack is simply a breeding pair and their offspring). Without stable family units, coyotes lose their home territory and familiar hunting grounds, where they know their prey patterns and can easily find natural food sources.
It is not hard to imagine what happens when coyote families are continually thrown into chaos. Desperation increases. Risk-taking increases. Fighting for territory increases. The 24/7 "open season" on coyotes can actually increase human-coyote conflict.
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife have said in the past that they continue the open season because it keeps coyotes fearful of humans. However, there is no scientific evidence to support that claim or to support killing coyotes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
VWC supports the petition brought forward by Vermont law students. While VWC is against predator hunting in general (see our official hunting position here), we recognize that a regulated season is a compromise and would at least provide some respite for coyotes. We believe a regulated hunting season would also help to reduce conflicts between landowners and coyote hunters. And it would give non-hunters such as birdwatchers, hikers, wildlife photographers, and others time to be out in nature without worrying about having to wear hunter orange or make a lot of noise to alert hunters to their present. (It is impossible to observe or photograph wildlife undetected if you are having to make noise and be visible!)
A coyote hunter created an opposing petition but misrepresented what the law students' were asking the Fish and Wildlife Board to consider, so some people might have signed the opposing petition under a false premise.
It is not uncommon for Fish and Wildlife Board members to have conflicts of interest, so we have to work twice as hard to be heard. We tried to address this issue with the legislature this year and will take it up again next year. We believe strongly that all Vermonters deserve the right to be heard. We want a process that is fair and evidence-based.
Fish and Wildlife Board members are not trained in wildlife science, and are not required to justify their decisions either verbally or in writing.
Some Fish and Wildlife Board members, along with Department leaders and trapping lobbyists, have spread misinformation about VWC's position on hunting. Please inform yourself on our position here.
Actions You Can Take Now
Please attend the Board hearing this summer. We will announce it on our site when we learn the date.
We need Vermonters to show up. Your presence makes all the difference.
If you cannot attend the hearing, please make sure your voice is heard.
1. Write to the Fish and Wildlife Board members and the Commissioner voicing support for establishing a coyote season.
Contact Board - use this link
Contact Commissioner -
2. Even if you can attend, please:
Email your area legislators (how to contact them) and share your opinion. Legislators don’t act until they hear from constituents.
Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues who value coyotes to do the same. This is critical -- we need an overwhelming response.
Learn more about coyotes in Vermont at