Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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norman.karen.farnleyHunter (and foxhunter) Robin Traywick Williams recently addressed the fox pen issue in an article published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The subject has been in the news recently as the Virginia House of Delegates considers phasing out the practice of penning. (See Phase-Out of Fox Pens One Step Closer in VA, as reported in Foxhunting Life last month.)

In her article, Williams claims that for a few of the 37 pens operating in Virginia, activity is relatively light. Only a few hounds are in the pen at any one time; the fox population in relation to the size of the pen mirrors the density found in nature; and the vixens within are able to reproduce. This activity level would conform to the fox pen’s use as a training aid for young foxhounds.

In perhaps 12 of the pens, however, activity is heavier year-round. Competitive foxhound trials are held with many hounds in the pen at the same time and for longer periods; the fox population in one pen is 10 times the population density found in nature; fox mortality rate is high; and with no limit to the season, vixens are not reproducing.

The pens are replenished with trapped foxes. Last year 52 trapped foxes were introduced into the 10 slowest pens for replenishment, while 575 foxes were needed to replenish the 10 busiest pens.

Williams claims that fox population in the wild averages one fox for every 30 to 50 acres. Game commission reports show that one Virginia pen stocks at 10 times that rate, while another stocks even more densely at one fox per 2 acres.

Williams proposes that pens be allowed to stock at a density similar to that found in nature and that fox penning be treated like any other form of hunting: a limited season to allow vixens to reproduce, and the imposition of bag limits.

Foxhunting Life has frequently expressed the opinion that hunters, by failing through our own many organizations to condemn abuses and keep our own house clean, continually open the door for animal rights activists to do our housecleaning for us, and at the same time implement their draconian agendas. And then we complain that the results aren’t what we would have wanted for ourselves. FHL applauds Ms. Williams for standing up as a hunter, pointing her finger at the abuses that taint all hunters, and suggesting reasonable controls.

Posted March 21, 2014


# Ed Clark 2014-04-02 16:30
As a recently initiated mounted fox hunter and a life-long gun hunter, I have vigorously opposed fox-penning in Virginia. In the first place, thousands of foxes...OUR foxes.. are taken from the wild and put on private property, where the public has to pay for access to them. However, there are no requirements for even the most basic steps to quarantine animals or provide any health checks whatsoever, before they are transported across the State and dumped into the stressful and unnatural conditions that exist in most pens. And, bluntly put, if the quarry cannot escape, it is NOT hunting. Good for Robin for taking on this practice. Now that the legislature has limited the number of foxes that can be taken each year, I am predicting that some of these pens will disappear. We can only hope so, anyway!

Ed Clark
Waynesboro, Virginia
# Meaghan M 2014-04-03 08:27
Like the article said, poor management and care in any of our fox pens opens us up to criticism from the HSUS and other organizations like them and it gives fox pens a bad name. The local fox pen that my hunt uses is well maintained with lots of fox boxes and healthy looking foxes. I think that fox pens are an important tool for training our hounds, but if the standards of care in our fox pens isn't beyond reproach, than we cannot pretend surprise when the HSUS and other organizations try to shut them down.

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