Northampton County, Virginia – In a surprising turn of events, fox hunting has become a hot topic of discussion in Northampton County–it was added for discussion to last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting. The sport, deeply rooted in Virginia’s history, is gaining popularity on the Eastern Shore, with the Charles City County-based Princess Anne Hunt (PAH) leading hunts here since 2022. The PAH has been a recognized hunt since 1927, and several historic James River Plantations are included in their regular events.
Supervisor John Coker recently placed fox hunting on the Regular Meeting agenda, leaving many residents puzzled about why such a traditional activity needed formal consideration. The catalyst for this discussion was reportedly two complaints from citizens, expressing concerns about fox hunters on horses, accompanied by hounds, trespassing on private and posted lands.
In an email exchange with a PAH member, Mr. Coker revealed that the Board of Supervisors aimed to gauge sentiment on fox hunting and explore potential measures to address the purported trespassing issues. Coker noted that the BoS was going to have the County Attorney look into the legal aspects. However, it’s worth noting that no official grievances were filed, and the PAH was not notified of any alleged trespass incidents–why was the County Attorney being leveraged over a violation that never happened?
As the County Attorney discovered, Virginia law permits hunters to retrieve their hounds on private property, even if access is denied by the landowner. The Princess Anne Hunt only allows officials and staff to retrieve hounds on foot or horseback.
Members of the PAH told the Mirror that they strictly adhere to the law, obtaining permission from landowners before engaging in fox hunting activities. The organization is committed to respecting property rights, and land stewardship–any unintentional trespassing is promptly rectified, with any property damage swiftly addressed.
Some members are concerned that, given there is little the County can do legally, putting the sport front and center was a way to smear it, and possibly turn public opinion (and other land owners) against it.
The complaints appear to be more personal than technical. While a trespassing issue could have been resolved through open communication, it appears that the Board of Supervisors has been drawn into what some speculate is an attempt to remove fox hunting from Northampton County. A looming question is who filed the secretive complaint, and why did the BoS move so hard and fast without first doing due diligence on the legal, historical, and cultural roots of the sport?
The Mirror reached out to Supervisor Coker for comment, but as of this writing, has not received a response.