THE Virginia Board of Wildlife Resources passed a resolution concerning hunting deer with dogs late last month. Four main points were considered for the resolution, but after a meeting that included presentations by organizations and citizens on all sides of the issue, the board decided to only adopt three.
Dropped was a statement related to amending Virginia’s “right-to-retrieve” law, which allows people to enter private property without notice to the landowner if the purpose is to retrieve hunting dogs.
Some private property rights groups are pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 23 as a ruling [https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20-107_ihdj.pdf] that could eventually end the right-to-retrieve practice, regardless of any DWR Board resolution.
Virginia DWR sources shared that the Supreme Court decision did factor into the board decision to strike proposed language related to the right-to-retrieve law from the resolution
The 6-3 Supreme Court decision ruled that the government cannot force people to allow third parties to trespass on their property. The decision struck down the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board rule that gave union organizers the right to physically access farm property to solicit workers.
“The right” to exclude is ‘“one of the most treasured’ rights of property ownership,” according to the Supreme Court ruling. Compelling a landowner to let a third party access a property without permission is tantamount to a government “taking,” according to the ruling and it cannot occur without compensation. The ruling seems to relate to any kind of undesired access for any purpose.
The board did adopt proposals related to a requirement for hunters to have dog collars tagged with owner contact information; a beefing up of the ethics and practices information about hunting with dogs in Virginia’s hunter safety course; and a plan to review and update the permit process for open ground fox field trials.
We will be watching this one.
Sick, Dead Birds
Sick or dying birds continue to be found in many Virginia counties, with more than 1,400 reports received through June by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Approximately 450 of the reported cases describe the birds having eye issues or signs of neurological impairment.
Reports began arriving in late May across multiple northern Virginia counties and cities, including Alexandria, Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Manassas, Prince William, Shenandoah, Warren and Winchester.
Dead or sick birds have been reported in other states, as well. According to DWR, natural resource management agencies along with the National Park Service continue to work with diagnostic laboratories specializing in animal and wildlife diseases to to investigate the issue.
Not detected thus far in any tested birds are salmonella and chlamydia, which are bacterial pathogens; avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Laboratory testing is ongoing and DWR says it will share additional information as it becomes known.
To reduce the potential for disease spread, wildlife agencies recommend against feeding birds in affected areas until the situation subsides. Feeders and bird baths should be cleaned with a 10-percent bleach solution, rinsed with water and allowed to air dry.
Avoid handling birds unless necessary. If you must, wear disposable gloves. If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird.
Anyone encountering sick or dead birds in Virginia should submit an event report at dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/bird-mortality-reporting-form. Dead birds should be placed in plastic bags, sealed and discarded with household trash or buried deeply.
Predator Contest Comments
Open through July 30 is the Board of Wildlife Resources’ public comment period related to a proposed regulation that would prohibit coyote and furbearer hunting contests in Virginia that offer cash prizes or inducements of monetary value.
The proposed regulation and the electronic comments form are available at dwr.virginia.gov/regulations/2021-predator-hunting-contests.
In explaining the reason for the ban, DWR states that competitive hunts that offer prizes for killing coyotes and furbearer species are controversial and have been prohibited or restricted in other states. “In recent years, there have been numerous predator hunting competition events hosted in Virginia, including several large regional contests with animals transported into Virginia from other states,” reads the posted rationale.
“Although most hunters support the idea of predator hunting contests, some members of the public oppose competition events, especially when large numbers of predators are killed and harvested animals are perceived as not being utilized appropriately. Due to these beliefs and perceptions, some wildlife professionals have expressed concern that negative attitudes associated with these contests may undermine public support for hunting in general,” it continued.
The department also expressed concern about the potential for improper disposal of out-of-state carcasses to spread of the parasite Echinococcusmultilocularis, a small tapeworm with human health implications.
Besides using the online comment form, people may also submit comments via email at email@example.com or “snail” mail comments directly to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Attn: Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, P.O. Box 90778, Henrico, Virginia 23228. Comments must be in writing and include the submitter’s name, address and telephone number.
The public comments will be presented at the August meeting of the Board’s Wildlife and Boat Committee (date to be determined), with final action on the proposal taking place at the Aug. 19 meeting of the full board. If adopted, the regulation could be effective by Oct. 1, 2021.