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Foxhound training preserves: Historic, humane

January 13, 2013 12:10 am

I'M WRITING in defense of the foxhound training preserves. We operators are not the barbaric, bloodthirsty criminals that we have been made out to be.

We do everything we can think of to have the fox as our priority. There are natural dens and manmade dens especially for them. We also have a half-acre area holding facility where, after capturing the fox, it is vaccinated and wormed, and then put into this natural environment for seven days to become accustomed to the area.

This area is fenced so that no dogs can enter. Pipes run from this area to the large preserve, which must be 100 acres or more. These pipes allow the fox to come and go as it pleases, but are too small for dogs to enter from their part of the preserve.

During this time food and water are available 24/7. Feeders are made so that the fox can eat as long as it wants, because feeders are made in such a fashion that they don't allow any dog to enter. Feeders are checked and refilled daily, and fox food consists of good, high-protein dog food--the same as my dogs eat. After two to three weeks, the fox looks healthier and has a nice shiny coat.

Fox aren't released into the preserve at the same time as the dogs. A cage is used only for transportation from the captured area to the holding preserve.

They say a fox doesn't like to run, but it always has an escape into the holding area. I've seen the fox stop running many times, look back, and wait for the dog to catch up. It appears the fox thinks it is outsmarting the dog-- and it does a good job, too! Marathon runners don't have to run, but they do because they enjoy it, just as the fox enjoys outsmarting the dogs.

I think a training preserve is good because it keeps the fox and dogs off our highways and other property where people don't want them. Many animals are killed on the highway: You may think you're saving the fox by not allowing it to be trapped, but foxes will overpopulate their food source, starve, and get mange, distemper, and rabies. I don't know if you've seen a fox with mange, but it's not a pretty sight (monthly worming also consists of mange treatment).

Even though 5,000 foxes have been put into 40-plus preserves in Virginia, that doesn't mean they have all been caught: Forty-plus preserves can still have a lot of foxes left in them.

If there are problems with any of the preserves, address the preserves that are causing the problems and leave the others alone. Hunters and their families enjoy coming to the preserves for recreation. In this day and age, we need to do everything in our power to keep children off the streets, and a good old-fashioned cookout at the preserve is hard to beat.

Hunting brings a lot of revenue to the commonwealth of Virginia. If you count all the people involved with this sport, it is amazing how many other people are affected, in transportation, gas stations, food stores, clothing stores, motels, veterinary services, hunting licenses, and more. The dogs have needs, too: licenses, food, collars and leashes, nameplates, bedding, houses, and so forth.

If hunting isn't your thing, then don't hunt, but don't dictate what other people are free to enjoy. This sport is part of the history of Virginia. It's enjoyable listening to the dogs run; they all have different-sounding mouths. And they can sound like a fox, because some have high-pitched mouths that are squeaky. And foxhounds switch from one fox to another all the time. Therefore, the fox doesn't get tired.

Don't believe everything you read: Go see for yourself. I'm located in Caroline County.

The American foxhound has been around Virginia since the 1700s. It is the official state dog of Virginia. Remember: The dogs are doing what comes naturally.

John Bassler is a resident of Milford.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.