The public comment period is now open on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ proposed new regulations for Fox Hound training preserves.
Fox Hunting has a long history in Virginia, but in the 1980s increased land development limited where hunters could train their dogs in the skill of the chase.
That's when what are known as Fox Hound Training Preserves were created; privately owned enclosures where the dogs could practice. Today there are 37 preserves in 22 counties, ranging from 100 acres to around 800, mostly in southeastern Virginia.
Mike Fies is a wildlife research biologist with the department of game and inland fisheries. He says the goal of the preserves is to keep the foxes from being harmed in the training process.
“The primary issues for most of the public who were opposed to these preserves was dog related mortality to the fox and we as an agency wanted to minimize that, as did everyone including the fox hound training preserve operators so these recommendations we believe will have a significant impact on the potential for that dog related mortality," says Fies.
He says DGIF based its new recommendations on data it had collected on the training pens. But he says the department didn’t have the funding or the in-house expertise to analyze it, so he brought it to the people at the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech.
Their analysis helped the Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries craft its recommendations, which now require no more than one dog per two acres of preserve. And a week long acclimation period for the foxes after they are brought in, with another week of light training that enables them to get used to the rules of the game..
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has posted its new recommendations for fox hound training centers on its website. The public comment period goes until May 31st via Internet and mail.