Mike Ryan: Let’s All Understand and Ban Bear Hunting

This commentary is from Mike Ryan, a resident of Hyde Park, who has a background in industrial engineering. He arrived in Vermont in 1979 from Galway, Ireland, and spent 19 years with Digital Equipment Corp., leading its materials management team in South Burlington, then leading large computer manufacturing plants in Germany and in Scotland. He returned to the United States in 2000 and spent 12 years as an independent global consultant leading offshore manufacturing for US and European companies before retiring.

What happened to us on Sunday August 1st?

7:30 am – My wife walked through our fields posted with our dog and they came across a bear with its cub. She thought it safe to return home, where she arrived at 7:50 a.m.

8:00 am – We heard loud barking and howling of dogs in the field my wife had just left. I went downstairs to check on what was going on. I found a van with several dog crates in the back, parked next to our posted property, right next to where my wife and dog were walking. The driver tried to leave but I did not allow it. I called 911. The driver was male. A discussion ensues, with the sheriff’s office listening.

I wanted to know what he was doing with the hunting dogs on my posted property, which prohibited any form of trespassing. He told me he was not on my property; only dogs were, and “Dogs can’t read!” He didn’t have them under control; the GPS tool he was using was only to see their location.

I found this scandalous. No protection under the law when you list your property? I told him never to return to my property again and that I intended to pursue the matter. I took his name and phone number. He said he needed to go; his dogs were roaming free on Garfield Road and could be run over. I let him go.

I was surprised to learn from the officer that the County Sheriff’s Department was excluded from these matters, and I should speak to Game Warden Ethan Coffey. I called him right away. He listened to my story, then told me that it seemed like no law had been broken.

It would only be an offense if I could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he released his dogs directly onto our posted property. He probably released his dogs to a legally acceptable location and they followed the bear to our property; they will go wherever they need to hunt the bear; they are not under anyone’s control.

I asked: Wasn’t it a concern that these dogs might attack pets or people? He didn’t think so. I told him it was ridiculous. I asked him to transfer me to his boss. He gave me Lieutenant Carl Wedin’s number.

I left a message but he didn’t call back. I called Kim Moulton, the Hyde Park clerk. She couldn’t help me as the animal control laws in effect in Hyde Park, which state that all dogs must be under the control of the handler, do not apply to private property even if it is. displayed. These laws are established by Vermont Fish & Wildlife. But thanks to her, I got Lieutenant Wedin’s cell phone number.

I talked to him. He confirmed everything. I asked if I could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the dogs were released directly onto our property, what would happen to the abuser? He told me he could get a ticket.

  • What could have happened?

If my wife had decided not to go home, in about 15 minutes she would have been faced with six frantic and uncontrollable dogs. Our protective dog would have tried to chase them away. The dogs reportedly retaliated. My wife, who loves our dog, would have got involved and they could both have been seriously injured in the process. There would be no one to call the dogs back. The hunter sitting in his truck believed they were attacking the bear. His GPS wouldn’t help.

  • Who would be responsible?

Eventually, Fish & Wildlife seems to find out.

Not my wife, who was walking her posted lot.

Not the hunter. In his truck. No one could prove that he released the dogs directly to our property.

Not the bear, of course.

Not the dogs; “Dogs can’t read”.

Great, no one was to blame; no action required

I don’t buy it and neither does anyone else. My wife is afraid to take her morning walks now. At our age, we shouldn’t be faced with this dangerous possibility.

  • What can we do about it?

“Dogs can’t read,” but they provide a nice legal escape clause, being allowed to rampage and roam uncontrollably through private property. If you can prove that the dogs were released on the posted property beyond a reasonable doubt, the perpetrator “could” get a ticket.

This cannot be allowed to continue; the owners certainly have rights.

Hunting black bears is not good for society, but it is dangerous and very cruel. We should not allow this to continue just for the benefit of those 100 people who hunt bears this way for fun and pleasure. It does not need to have any effect on other forms of hunting, quite the contrary.

Please ask Governor Scott to nominate a strong and impartial person to the recently vacant post of Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner and ask your state officials to vote to endorse H.172, which would ban this barbaric practice.

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