FWC will revisit fox and coyote chase issue in June
As I See It
Friday, April 16, 2010
In a couple of months, the seven Commissioners of
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will
revisit whether to allow hunters to run foxes and coyotes in
enclosures in the state, and if we do, what rules we might
draft to ensure the animals are run by "fair chase" standards.
In case you are not familiar with the practice, let
me explain. Many years ago, it was possible for fox hunters
to cast their dogs in large areas of North and Central Florida and
run foxes on vast, forested tracts. In the 1970s and '80s
North and Central Florida's human population grew, and it continues
to grow. By the mid-to-late '80s fox chases on open land
proved untenable for residents and fox hunters alike due to
trespass and human-disturbance issues.
As an alternative to fox chases on open land, the
then-Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission created a permit system
for fox running inside high-fence enclosures beginning in
1988. Coyotes were prevalent in Florida, and hunters could
chase them too.
The permit that pen owners operate under spells out
such things as the height and construction of the fence;
requirement for escape areas for foxes and coyotes; food and water
stations for the animals; required veterinary care or euthanasia
for injured foxes and coyotes; and the maximum number of dogs that
hunters could use in the chase.
The permit also stipulated that when pen owners
wanted to acquire foxes, they had to obtain the animals from
sources outside Florida, and the state where they got them had to
be certified disease-free (of rabies) for a year. On the
other hand, coyotes had to come from within Florida.
Over the years, the number of permitted enclosures
has fluctuated from just a handful to as many as 50. The
smallest of the areas was about 100 acres, the largest, about
Concerned about reports of coyotes and foxes being
obtained illegally and other violations concerning the enclosures,
the FWC initiated an investigation in early 2009. Officers
wrapped up the detail in November 2009 with the arrests of 12
In September 2009, the FWC launched a moratorium on
issuing or re-issuing permits to operate these facilities.
That moratorium remains in place now.
At the February 17-18 Commission meeting in
Apalachicola, we heard from 48 speakers, the opinions were almost
equally divided. One side asked the agency to lift the moratorium
and continue allowing the running of foxes and coyotes in these
enclosures. On the other side, the speakers called the
practice "cruel" and "barbaric" and asked that FWC stop the
Our action to continue the moratorium until our
June 23-24 meeting in Lake Mary was done to give FWC staff time to
sit down with stakeholders try to reach consensus on possible
measures to make sure fox and coyotes are treated humanely and not
Prior to the February meeting and since then, we
have gotten lots of calls, letters and e-mails on the
subject. We value that input. Our decision in Lake Mary
certainly won't please everyone, but we pledge to consider all