DNR takes no action on off-season penning

The illegal penning and mauling of a coyote trapped within the confines of the WCI Foxhound Training Preserve does not appear to be a DNR enforcement priority. Prosecuting a police officer and a nurse who rescued an injured fawn and subsequently kept it on their property, however, is a different story.

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

represented ALDF.

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

from trappers.

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

ultimate answer.

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.