Hunters with deer-hunting dogs clash with private property owners
October 24, 2016
Florida law allows hunters to be assisted by dogs when hunting deer or certain other species that are defined as “nuisance wildlife,” as long as such dogs are registered and the property on which the hunting will take place has been disclosed when the dogs are registered. When these hunting activities cross onto someone else’s private property, the deer-dog hunters can find themselves (and their dogs) in conflict with the private property owners. Judge Karen Gievers, a Second Circuit judge in Leon County, recently ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) to stop deer-dog hunters from entering private property located within the borders of a state wildlife management area in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties. Property owners had brought the lawsuit alleging that the hunters’ activities were scaring rescued horses that live on some of the private property.
FFWCC requires that dogs being used for hunting in certain areas be equipped with devices that allow behavior correction in addition to remote tracking. Remote tracking is necessary because the dogs are unleashed when deer tracks are found and then hunters follow by vehicle or on foot to where the dogs are expected to round up the deer for shooting. The dogs might have tracked the deer from a starting point that was within the permitted public hunting area to a final location that is on private property and therein lies the conflict. While white-tailed deer are the most popular game species in Florida, other “nuisance species” that can be hunted with a dog include rabbit, raccoon, opossum, skunk, beaver, coyote, hog, fox and bobcat, as defined in the Florida Administrative Code at 68A-9.010 – all of which might easily be chased onto private property.
Florida is not alone in trying to balance the rights of private property owners with the interests of those who wish to hunt with or run their dogs on adjacent public land. For example, the national forests are often used to run dogs for training as well as hunting of nuisance species, as are other government lands that border private property. Responsible land management and species conservation policies can help balance these border-conflict issues, as well as the conflicting interests of those who wish to enjoy the public land itself – whether for hunting or running their dogs or even just for hiking with or without a companion animal.