NH’s Snowshoe Hare

These are old articles for your information only. Actions are outdated but stay tuned for new actions as we are still working for the snowshoe hare.

Concord Monitor
April 8, 2018

Letter to the Editor

Did you know that the N.H. Fish and Game Department allows the capture of our wild snowshoe hares so that they may be used as live tools for training beagles on how to assist in hare hunting?

N.H. Fish and Game, about 10 years ago, began allowing beagle hunt clubs to capture and keep in captivity these wild animals for that purpose. This is unnecessary cruelty. There is no need to use live animals in dog training. Dogs are smart and can be trained without using live animals.

At the February 2018 Fish and Game Commission meeting there was one commissioner who opposed this practice and had the courage to say, “I don’t think it is right to live trap our wildlife, to capture and use them for training.” He is right, and kudos go to him. This captivity is an exception to New Hampshire’s long-standing policy of keeping our native wildlife wild and free.

There is a proposal in rulemaking to extend the season for capture and for increasing the number of persons permitted to do so. This is happening, now, in rulemaking. Please write and say no to this increase. However, go the step further and let Fish and Game know that the capture of wild snowshoe hares to train hunting dogs is an abusive practice that should end completely.

New Hampshire Union Leader
June 14, 2018

Battle brewing over rabbit ‘hounding’


CONCORD — The paddle-footed snowshoe hare has become the latest icon in the ongoing battle between New Hampshire’s hunting and trapping community and animal-rights activists.

First it was bear-baiting with chocolate in 2015, followed by an intense debate over the bobcat hunt in 2016. Animal rights groups won those battles and are now are pushing to end the practice of hare hounding, in which live-caught rabbits are released to be chased by hunting dogs in training exercises and competitions known as field trials.

The legislative committee charged with approving all administrative rules is scheduled to take up the issue when it meets Friday to consider a change to the hare hounding rules that have been in effect since 2007.

The Fish and Game Commission in May voted to increase the number of permits for live capture of snowshoe hares from six to 10, expand the area in which they can be trapped, and extend the season for trapping.

That vote activated organizations like Voices of Wildlife in N.H., which is urging a big turnout at Friday’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR), where the rule changes would have to be approved.

“During the public comment period of the Fish and Game biennial rulemaking it received over 60 comments opposing the snowshoe hare live capture rule and none in favor,” according to Voices of Wildlife. “At the May meeting when this rule was discussed and passed by the commissioners there was no mention of the public comments.”

Call to action

The call to action on the organization’s website states, “It’s disturbing enough that N.H. Fish and Game allows beagle dog hunt clubs to live capture snowshoe hare, keep them in captivity and use them in dog training. Now they want to expand this practice. We are asking JLCAR to oppose the readoption and expansion of the live capture snowshoe hare rule and we need you to write, too.”

Fish and Game commissioners and senior staff were at an off-site meeting Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

The rationale for the existing rule cites the state’s long-standing traditions:

“As part of the department’s responsibility to recognize, preserve and promote the state’s hunting heritage, these rules allow the continuance of a long-held tradition of hunting hare and rabbits with trained beagles by fostering responsible dog training and breeding and promoting interest in the hunting of snowshoe hares,” the rule reads.

Among those writing in opposition to the practice was veterinarian Barry Taylor of the Franklin Veterinary Clinic.

“These animals are individuals with lives that they cherish, and do not deserve to be treated as disposable playthings for humans and dogs to terrify literally to death,” he wrote on June 7. “As a veterinarian with 30 years experience in this state, I wish to go on record as being profoundly opposed to this practice.”

The opposition was so strong that state Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, chairman of the JLCAR, recommended on Tuesday that the proposed changes be withdrawn, so that the overall rule allowing the practice is not brought into the debate. “I told them they’d better withdraw it, because they are on the losing side of this,” he said.

If left unchanged, the current rule remains in effect until 2026.

Sport or cruelty?

There are five beagle clubs in the state that conduct hare field trials, according to opponents. During the field trials, the hares are chased by packs of beagles. The dogs are judged on their performance, with awards to the top performers.

Attempts to reach clubs, such as the White Mountain Beagle Club, were unsuccessful.

Attorney Peter Marsh, representing Voices of Wildlife, claims the rule allowing hare hounding violates existing state law and should be repealed in its entirety. In a May 18 letter to the JLCAR, he writes that the rule goes beyond the Fish and Game rule-making authority, conflicts with the state’s animal cruelty law and is contrary to the public interest.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the staff at JLCAR had not received any request from Fish and Game to withdraw the proposed rule changes, but that could well happen between now and Friday or at the meeting on Friday morning.

Whatever happens at JLCAR, this is a battle that could well find its way to the floor of the state legislature when lawmakers reconvene in January.


New Hampshire Union Leader
June 20, 2018

Hunting, trapping rules gain approval


CONCORD — New regulations on hunting and trapping were approved by lawmakers on Thursday, to the delight of hunters and trappers and the chagrin of animal rights groups that had pushed for changes.

Both sides orchestrated a large turnout that filled two meeting rooms and spilled into the hallway of the Legislative Office Building, as the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) convened for a second time to consider changes to existing rules approved by the 11-member Fish and Game Commission.

The committee took no testimony and unanimously approved the new rules on a voice vote. Representatives and senators on the committee objected to the rules a month ago on the basis that the Fish and Game Commission did not adequately take into consideration public comment, much of it against the proposal.

A coalition of animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of New Hampshire, tried to take advantage of the biennial rules change to constrain the hunting and trapping of foxes and coyotes, and block an effort to expand the live trapping of snowshoe hare used to train hunting dogs.

They failed on all three counts and are now expected to take their fight to the full Legislature.

The wildlife management professionals at Fish and Game had recommended closure of the coyote season for a 10-week period in late spring and early summer, when coyotes are raising their young.

“The reasons the biologists supported it is that all other fur-bearing species get a respite from hunting and trapping pressures when raising their young, so there is an inconsistent wildlife management policy when it comes to coyotes,” said Lindsay Hamrick, state director for the Humane Society. “The commission not only rejected that proposal, but did not even include it in the proposed rule.”

Commission reversal

In the first pass of the proposed rule, the commission included a three-bag limit on the hunting and trapping of foxes, as recommended by the agency staff, but reversed itself on July 2 in a second vote after another round of public hearings.

Animal rights groups were also disappointed about the outcome of the snowshoe hare debate, as they had opposed expanding the live trapping to other parts of the state, and increasing the number of licenses. Their goal is to have the practice eliminated, according to Hamrick.

“We have concerns that there is a legal practice of capturing wild animals and breeding them,” said Hamrick. “Commissioner (Eric) Stohl spoke to that and we agree that this is not how wildlife should be utilized.”

Diane Richardson of Springfield, a licensed tracking dog handler, hunter and former trapper, wrote in her testimony to JLCAR that the concerns over the fox and coyote populations are overstated.

Only a small percentage of the state’s 59,000 hunting license holders target predators like the fox or coyote, according to Richardson, and a small percentage of the state’s 586 licensed trappers have the skills needed to trap canines, especially foxes.

“Canine trapping is the master level of trapping,” according to Richardson. “Not many have the skills needed to consistently trap them. Because of how trapping in New Hampshire works, only about 5 percent of the fox population will ever come near a trap.”

On the snowshoe hare, Richardson points out that the beagle clubs feed and shelter the hares and do not want their dogs to catch them “let alone have the hares die for any reason.”

“I believe the license holders of New Hampshire deserve and expect the Fish and Game Department to work for them, not the anti-hunting, anti-animal use crowd,” she wrote.

Planning legislation

Paul DeBow, president of the N.H. Trappers Association, says his group didn’t get everything it wanted, since the new rules also include a limit of two fishers per season, down from the current standard of five statewide.

“But we’re happy that the commission, having heard the trappers quite a bit, decided to side with us and go back to the previous year’s fox season,” he said.

Having failed before the Fish and Game Commission and the legislative rules committee, Hamrick said the animal rights groups are now setting their sights on the state Legislature. “The commission majority continues to prove time and time again that they are only listening to a very small subset of people, and not the average taxpayer or their own staff biologists,” said Hamrick.

According to JLCAR staff attorney Christina R. Muñiz, the lawmakers received “substantial written testimony” before their first vote on June 15 and another batch before Thursday’s vote.

“The first meeting received over 80 pages of testimony, mostly in opposition to the rule, and the second meeting received over 150 pages of testimony, both in opposition and in support of the rule,” according to Muñiz.