A new hunting dog rule approved by Florida wildlife officials is drawing some concerns.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has agreed to allow any dog breed to be used during small game hunting season in 60 designated Wildlife Management areas, or WMAs, across the state. The small game hunting list includes quail, rabbits, squirrel, and migratory game birds.
“And, I really want to stress here that hunting with dogs during the small game season is already allowed in these areas. However, it’s already restricted by either the size or the breed of dog that can be used, said Paul Scharine, an FWC public hunting area biologist. “These changes are really just meant to ensure that the traditional activity of hunting rabbits and squirrels with dogs is allowed under our Wildlife Management Areas.”
And, Scharine says the rule change is meant to remove any ambiguity of current rules.
“As an example of that, we get calls frequently along the lines of, ‘can I use my bird dog to hunt wild hog during the hunting season?’ This change will make it clear that this activity isn’t allowed and make it clear what activity is allowed,” he added.
Many hunters gathered at a recent FWC meeting in support of the new rule. So did opponents of the rule change, including environmental lawyer Leslie Blackner.
“I would argue that dogs will degrade these lands as well as harm and harass and disrupt many species, including plant species,” she said. “We also know that dogs bring a plethora of disease into these areas, and really they just act as an invasive species.”
Some also fear this could open the door to using dogs during bear hunts. But, Scharine says that’s not the case.
Meanwhile, the FWC is also celebrating 75 years of the state's Wildlife Management Areas. Florida now has about six million acres of the conservation land to help manage fish and wildlife.
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