FWC decides to draft rules guiding fox and coyote enclosures
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Media contact: Stan Kirkland, 850-624-7000
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) voted Wednesday to temporarily prohibit the
chasing of foxes and coyotes in enclosures, while moving forward to
draft rules guiding such enclosures in Florida. An executive order
prohibiting chasing of foxes and coyotes within an enclosure will
be issued by Feb. 24.
Before making the decision, Commissioners listened
to more than 40 speakers on fox and coyote pens, beginning with
Rep. Debbie Boyd, D-High Springs. Boyd urged the Commission to
recognize the shortcomings on both sides of the issue, to address
those shortcomings and engage stakeholders in the process.
"This issue has been painted with a broad brush,"
Boyd said. "I ask the Commission to engage stakeholders and put fox
and coyote enclosures into rule rather than through the permit
After listening to emotional appeals from the
public, whose comments ranged from calling the practice of hunting
foxes and coyotes within enclosures a "heritage" and "a way of
life" to making charges of "cruelty" and "mauling" of the animals,
Commissioners discussed how to proceed based on staff
recommendations and public comment.
"Rep. Boyd said it best," said Commissioner Kathy
Barco. "We need to allow for the process so everybody works
FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said he leaned toward
an outright ban of the practice but also felt the process should be
given a chance for review.
"I'm not sure I'll support the draft rules when
they come back," Barreto said. "I don't see any sport in the
animals' having no escape. I personally don't agree with the
Last September, FWC commissioners directed the
agency's law enforcement staff to explore the history behind the
enclosures, including a review of the agency's permitting process
and the number of such enclosures in the state. Then-Executive
Director Ken Haddad issued an executive order, putting a moratorium
on issuing permits for chasing foxes or coyotes in enclosures.
During Wednesday's meeting at Apalachicola,
commissioners received the report, indicating such enclosures have
been around since 1988, when the agency began meeting with
stakeholders to draw up regulations for permitting them.
Previously, fox hunting took place on large land tracts, but fewer
tracts were available as Florida's human population grew.
Enclosure operators also began using more-readily
available coyotes captured within Florida. Importing coyotes from
other states is illegal.
It is not legal to kill foxes in Florida, but
chasing them with dogs has been a long-standing tradition.
At one time, there were about 50 fox and coyote
pens from the Panhandle to Central Florida. Currently, however,
because of the moratorium and decreasing demand, the state has only
one permitted facility.
In 2007, the Alabama Department of Conservation and
Natural Resources completed an investigation into fox pens in that
state, and shared information with the FWC, indicating illegal
importation, sale and delivery of foxes or coyotes was taking place
among Alabama and six other states.
FWC investigators made similar discoveries during a
10-month undercover operation in 2008. They found some enclosures
were ignoring permit provisions. As a result, officers cited 12
suspects for 46 alleged violations.
FWC wildlife veterinarian Mark Cunningham stated in
a report that importation of foxes from other states could result
in the spread of disease strains and parasites that are not native
to Florida, and that poses health risks for humans, native
wildlife, pets and livestock.
"This is not a referendum on hunting; we are a
pro-hunting commission," said Commissioner Brian Yablonski. "But we
must consider the concept of 'fair chase,' and I am not sure
chasing coyotes and foxes in an enclosure meets that standard of
hunting - a standard that is important to preserving hunting in the
The Commission asked staff to hold workshops and
meet with stakeholders to develop draft rules. The draft rules will
be brought back for consideration at the June meeting, with the
possibility of final rule approval in September.