Editor's Note: In an ironic twist, it came to our attention as this story was going to print that Indiana Conservation Officers had taken to the Fayette County prosecutor the case of a Connersville couple who had admitted to illegally housing a young deer that they had nursed since having rescued it as an injured fawn. Officials had decided that the deer would not survive in the wild because it was now accustomed to humans, so the only humane way to handle the situation was to euthanize the deer. This led to an unapproved release of the deer into the wild and subsequent charges filed against the couple (who happen to be a local nurse and police officer).
As far as the latest news on WCI, DNR Spokesman Phil Bloom on Thursday noted: "If WCI wants to continue to operate, it must obtain a permit or permits from the DNR. No requests to conduct any activities at the property have been received."
And yet another note: Update posted to news blog on Feb. 1: This just in from the DNR:
"The Department of Natural Resources today will ask that the charges be dismissed against a Connersville couple for illegal taking of a deer."
When the Animal Legal Defense Fund,
Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute filed a complaint with the Marion Superior Court
to consider the offseason possession of coyotes by the WCI Foxhound Training
Preserve, the petitioners said they hoped the case would help lead to an end of
the practice of penning in Indiana.
Judge David Certo
in November issued a default judgment against the Green County-based nonprofit facility for
illegal possession of coyotes during closed season, acknowledging that dogs
had, on at least one occasion, killed a penned coyote.
The practice of chasing an animal until
it collapses of exhaustion and is subsequently mauled to death is a violation
of the hunter's code because the prey is confined and has no chance of escape,
said John Melia, a California-based attorney who
But despite the judgment and ethical
concerns, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has taken no action
against WCI, which is the only registered training facility of this kind in the
Supporters say the purpose of penning
is to train dogs to chase coyotes within a safe area, without trespassing and
without fear of their dogs being hit by vehicles.
"The DNR has not received any
complaints against WCI, other than those filed through this lawsuit or the
rule-making process," said Phil Bloom, an IDNR spokesman.
The DNR issues field trial permits for
sanctioned field trials at the facility, which borders the state-owned
Hillenbrand Fish and Wildlife Area.
Richard "Red" Bedwell, co-owner of WCI, said that the coyotes "come
and go through holes in the fence" and are not therefore technically
Coyotes can climb his six-foot-tall
welded wire fence, but "animal rights people" keep cutting holes in his
fence, forcing continuous patching jobs, Bedwell
He said he was bewildered with the
judgment and accusations of unsporting activities, claiming coyotes aren't
"I don't understand it," he
said. "If we were doing something wrong, I'd understand. If we were doing
what they claimed, I'd be right there with them."
But possessing wildlife without a
permit in the off-season is unlawful, Judge Certo
"Portions of the fence not
adjacent to trees are buried underground so coyotes cannot dig under the fence and escape into the wild," Certo noted in his judgment. Further negating claims the
coyotes are free to leave by climbing the fence, he
added that the fence is reinforced by a single-line electric wire at the base,
which is activated even when field trials are not taking place. Certo also noted that, within the fenced perimeter, the
facility features a 50-by-50-foot holding pen for holding coyotes purchased
Bedwell said that local farmers support WCI.
"They call and want us to come,"
he said. "Coyotes are killing their calves. Farmers expect us to kill
coyotes, not just hear dogs bark."
He added that the state helps by
supplying road kill to feed the coyotes, noting "DNR
backs us 100 percent."
The DNR's Bloom
denied that the agency provided such support.
speaking, the DNR is supportive of anyone who abides by the rules and
regulations spelled out in Indiana Code and Indiana Administrative Code that
pertain to DNR's scope of responsibilities," he
Regarding the lack of
action on WCI's off-season killing of wildlife, Bloom
offered no comment.
Melia said he believes that "penning
would be over if the DNR properly applied the possession
regulations." But, he added, he thinks anti-penning legislation is the
Thirty-nine states have already
outlawed running pens.
In 2011, State Rep. Linda Lawson,
D-Hammond, and Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon, introduced legislation to
stop penning. House Bill 1135 would make the practice a Class C Misdemeanor,
punishable by up to a $500 fine or 60 days in jail. The bill did not emerge
from its assigned House committee.