Island hunters and nature lovers are blasting the Canadian Wildlife Service for proposed changes to the province's hunting season which they say could negatively impact black duck and bred geese populations.
Hunters for Conservation spokesperson Lorne Yeo said the CWS proposals, which were jointly developed with the provincial government, include lengthening both the waterfowl season and bag limits.
The season, which now runs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 8, would be extended to Dec. 31 for wild geese and Jan. 14 for black ducks.
Yeo, who was a former editor at The Guardian and also a former president of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and Canada Wildlife Federation, described the changes as radical and "ridiculously insensitive."
"A number of people toady show disrespect for wildlife, they consider it merely 'a thing' to be 'used,' which leads to abuse... not to be enhanced as something worthy of the wise management it deserves," said Yeo. "It's part of a 'culture' that reflects little respect, not only for wildlife, but for all life and human dignity."
Environment Canada numbers showed the black duck population rising approximately 32 per cent from 2011 to 2012, the first increase seen in the Atlantic flyway in years.
However, Yeo said the 2012 population was still down five per cent from 2002.
With a one-year increase not indicating a long-term trend, Yeo said the proposals are not justified.
"For at least another year, in the hope that brighter figures will justify change later," said Yeo. "They definitely do not at this time."
There have yet to be any results published from Eastern Joint Habitat aerial surveys of nesting black ducks in P.E.I., which has been under study since 2009.
Yeo said many feel the changes have been recommended because they are already in effect elsewhere throughout the Maritimes and don't accurately reflect P.E.I.'s unique winter hunting situation.
Late season hunting is possible in south Nova Scotia because the water stays open and gives ducks lots of habitat.
On P.E.I., much of the habitat freezes, making the birds "easy kill."
The P.E.I. Wildlife Federation has defended the proposals and said the province can shut the hunt down if there are freeze up conditions.
Yeo said he believes the season would not be closed until much of the damage is already done.
"Until we see the cold hard evidence of dead black ducks, they (the province) will probably wait until they actually take any action," he said. "And that's putting a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of wildlife division staff."
Another proposal to introduce September hunting of locally-bred wild geese also doesn't reflect P.E.I.'s circumstances, said Yeo.
The idea of early hunting is based in dispersing flocks of geese tearing apart fields of early barley and grain.
However, the problem is almost non-existent on P.E.I. and can easily be solved by requesting a "scare away" permit from the CWS, said Yeo.
The CWS has extended public input on the proposals to March 22 and will also be holding public input sessions in Charlottetown and Summerside. Dates and locations have yet to be announced.
Yeo said members of Hunters for Conservation, which formed about three months ago in response to the proposals, will be attending the meetings.
The group includes more than 70 members, consisting of hunters as well as nature lovers.
"Islanders who enjoy wildlife in different ways," said Yeo. "Generally speaking, Islanders like to see wildlife populations strong."