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Associated Press
A state wildlife panel is considering a proposal that would allow dogs to hunt coyotes in fenced-in areas.

A wildlife reversal

Allowing hunting dogs to chase and kill fenced-in coyotes who have little chance of escape is unsporting. Not allowing ample opportunity for comment at a public meeting about the controversial proposal is unfair as well.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has historically supported humane wildlife management policies and promoted the ethic of fair chase in hunting. Now, the agency is considering regulations that appear contrary to those important principles. Opponents also fear they will not be allowed to offer information challenging the proposed rules at an upcoming public meeting.

On Tuesday, the state Natural Resources Commission is holding its regular public meeting in Indianapolis, and a proposal to legalize and regulate operations that allow hunting dogs to chase penned coyotes and foxes is on the agenda.

CeAnn Lambert of the Indiana Coyote Rescue Center and others who oppose hunting confined animals want to speak at the meeting. But state officials advised them that “there is nothing that states the public must be allowed the opportunity to speak. Public testimony is at the discretion of the chairman.”

Phil Bloom, spokesman for the DNR, said if the commission votes in favor of preliminary adoption of the regulations, it would begin the rule-making process that would include a public comment period and a public hearing.

That’s good, but the commission would very likely benefit from hearing the concerns before it votes on the issue. Seeking ample public opinion is especially needed considering the recommendations from the DNR regarding penned runs have changed drastically in recent months.

At a March meeting, DNR officials presented a report that made strong recommendations against legalizing and regulating running enclosures in Indiana. The report noted that such enclosures don’t always provide for fair chase, carry a potential for increased disease transmission and could promote the commercialization and sale of wild animals.

The report also said such enclosures “could damage the public’s view of trappers and hunters. The Indiana DNR supports the concept of fair chase and has taken a stand against canned hunting of captive cervids and other species. Some organizations in Kentucky have opposed the live sale of foxes and coyotes because of the negative image it portrays of hunting and trapping and due to the potential for an increased number of traps in the field.”

Bloom said the agency changed its position on the issue after inspecting the only known Indiana penned-run facility, in Green County.

“In this operation the intent is not to kill the coyote, the intent is to train the dog,” Bloom said. Using dogs to hunt coyotes and foxes in the prescribed season is legal in Indiana.

Lambert said, “The complete reversal from the DNR on this issue has completely surprised us.”

The rule change has the potential of becoming a small step toward encouraging canned hunting in Indiana. Therefore, the chair of the Natural Resources Commission should use his discretion to hear from as many people as possible on Tuesday.