More hounds, more foxes
A study has found that using a full pack of hounds — rather than a couple — to flush foxes results in shorter and more effective chases
Areport published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin has raised questions about the law on using dogs to flush foxes to guns in England and Wales. The study, undertaken by two veterinary surgeons, found that using a pack of dogs rather than a pair resulted in shorter and more effective chases.
The Hunting Act 2004, which outlawed most forms of hunting with dogs in England and Wales, allowed an exemption for using up to two dogs to flush foxes from cover for them to be shot. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 allowed a similar exemption but did not limit the number of hounds that could be used. In both cases the exemption was intended to allow fox control in areas of upland forestry where other methods were ineffective.
Limiting the number of hounds used to flush foxes to two ended the long-established practice of Welsh upland farmers using packs of hounds to drive foxes out of cover so they could shoot them. Since the ban came into force, the Federation of Welsh Farmers Packs has made a number of calls for the restriction on the number of hounds to be lifted, so that fullsize packs can be used.
In 2014 David Burles, the master of the Gelligaer Farmers Hunt, told the writer Charlie Pyesmith that “under the Hunting Act, we’re only allowed to flush a fox with two hounds, but you need many more if you’re going to find foxes in large forested areas, like the ones we have round here”.
This conclusion was supported by Lord Bonomy, who reviewed foxhunting legislation for the Scottish government. In his report he concluded “searching and flushing by two dogs would not be as effective as that done by a full pack of hounds”.
The newly published study adds weight to these claims. The authors examined how effective a pair of hounds is in flushing a fox from woodland compared with a pack of hounds, by using the two different approaches on a set of coverts in the Scottish Borders. They found that when a pack was used, 56 per cent more foxes were flushed from cover.
The study has also demonstrated that the use of a pack also led to shorter pursuits and reduced times to find foxes. A pair of dogs was found to take almost three times as long to find a fox and the pursuit of the fox was five times longer.
The authors also noted that on a number of occasions pairs of hounds vocalised but did not flush foxes, leading them to the conclusion that pairs of hounds were finding foxes but were unable to flush them. Matt Cross
“The study found that when a pack was used, 56 per cent more foxes were flushed from cover”
Under the Hunting Act 2004, up to two dogs may be usedto flush foxes to guns