Here’s an interesting story from South Carolina about a recently introduced bill to outlaw the practice of “penning” coyotes and foxes. For those of you not familiar with the practice, there are many coyote hunters who choose to hunt with dogs, either decoy dogs or coursing sight hounds like greyhounds. Those dogs have to be trained somehow, and often it’s with live-trapped coyotes.
From the story:
Seen any coyotes in South Carolina lately? If so, you’re not alone. Though coyotes are not indigenous to the Palmetto State, their population is on the rise, according to Department of Natural Resources statistics – up 638 percent on average over the past 35 years. At the same time, the state’s home-grown gray fox herd is down by nearly 49 percent, and red foxes are down by almost 35 percent._ _A Senate panel is considering legislation that would ban coyote and fox hunting in enclosed areas, or pens, in the state, and discontinue the issue of permits for such pens. Professional trappers, who make their living thinning out coyote, beaver, otter, bobcats and other small animals, which often can be nuisances to humans, told the Senate panel Wednesday such a move would be unwise. “Your constituents will pay,” said Ricky Williams, S.C. Trapper’s Association president, who traps animals and sells them to pen owners. “If we take the monetary value off these coyotes, there is no reason to do it.” Right now, a trapper can earn from $65 to $100 a head for coyote, when legally sold to pen owners in South Carolina. Pens can be any size enclosed area, from a small farm of several acres to a plantation of several thousand acres, to huge hunting preserves. Pens often are used to train dogs to hunt.
When I hunt coyotes I do so with calls, not dogs, and so its tempting to pass judgment on these sorts of training methods. Almost as tempting, in fact, as it would be for someone else to pass judgment on me, to say I’m wrong for shooting pigeons or pen-raised birds to train my dogs. Or to say it’s cruel to use live fliers in a field trial. Start asking those questions and you find yourself on a philosophical slippery slope.
Where I’m stuck is this: Is it inherently more “cruel” to use live coyotes to train a coyote dog than it is to use live birds to train bird dogs? Rabbits for beagles? Coons for coon hounds? Where do you draw the line? If we’re going to ban using live coyotes for training coyote dogs, we might as well go ahead and ban the use of all live animals for dog-training, grab a Frisbee and take our dogs to the park.