Residents ask commissioners to outlaw new fox pens in Gates County, NC

North Carolina

GATES COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — Timothy Williams’ property backs up to an empty 244-acre lot in Gates County, North Carolina.

When he started seeing recent development activity, he began asking questions and learned someone was possibly putting in a fox pen. The outline of a road now circles the property along with a 5-foot ditch. Williams says those are telltale signs of a fox pen.

“This yellow dirt is the road that’s around the perimeter because they need that when they go in and catch their dogs,” Williams explained.

Fox pens are fenced enclosures where people visit and pay to have their hounds pursue wild foxes and coyotes. Advocates for the pens say it’s a great way to train hunting dogs.

Virginia passed a law in 2014 to phase out the controversial practice over a span of forty years.

“This is no different than you having a dog fight,” said Williams.

It’s still legal in North Carolina.

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, the state agency in charge of permitting and regulating the pens, there are currently 106 active fox pens in North Carolina. The Wildlife Commission says they haven’t received an application yet for any new pens in Gates County.

Williams and his neighbors want to stop the potential project before it gets any further.

A number of residential properties back up to the 244-acre lot. Those residents have many concerns about having a fox pen in their backyards.

For one, they fear the foxes and coyotes could escape and roam their backyards.

“They get out,” said Williams. “It’s just how it happens. You cannot keep a wild animal caged up, he’s going to find a way out.”

Residents also say this type of business will negatively impact their property value.

“No one wants this fox pen in their backyard.” said Williams. “… We want things that are going to uplift our well-being.” 

At the Gates County County Commission meeting today, Williams asked local leaders to place a moratorium on fox pens in the county.

“We are homeowners, we pay taxes and we should have a voice on what is placed in our neighborhood.”

The moratorium Williams suggested would allow existing pens in Gates County to be grandfathered in and no more could be built. According to Willaims, four pens are currently in operation.

The commissioners will discuss the issue at the next meeting.

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