Managing wildlife wisely and compassionately

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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By Lorne Yeo

Commentary

Increased killing of wildlife, not the enhancement of it, is being promoted by the Canadian Wildlife Service in its regulatory proposals for more waterfowl hunting this year on P.E.I.

The CWS is the federal regulatory body that sets hunting dates and wildlife bag limits across Canada and it's now proposing that the provincial government permit longer seasons to hunt black ducks - 37 more days in an extended season  of (Oct. 1 - Jan. 14) and 23 extra days to kill wild geese (Oct. 1 - Dec. 31).

These proposals show less regard for wildlife and will threaten the black duck population, in a period of reduced habitat of colder winter temperatures and freeze-up conditions. This will leave waterfowl more susceptible to being shot in open potholes and spring holes.

The sad part of these duck deaths is that the shooting, the killing, is usually not stopped by the wildlife division until and after the damage is done and dead ducks are the cold, hard evidence of a season going too late in December and beyond.

And if all this killing "opportunity" isn't enough, CWS proposals propose early September hunting of Island-bred wild geese for 14 consecutive days, opening on the Tuesday following Labour Day.

These measures, to quote the CWS proposals, are aimed at "increasing harvest pressure" and "controlling population growth" of these Island-bred birds.

What did "our geese" do to deserve all this? These "temperate-breeding" Canada geese, posing no problems in P.E.I., are akin to domesticly-raised birds and are found in small waterholes and lowlands on Island farms. People like to watch them. They deserve a sporting chance at least. No, let's be blunt. These birds, hatched on P.E.I., deserve every chance to be hunted humanely, not to be caught unaware and victimized before early migrants arrive from the north. Some Islanders may even say they shouldn't be hunted at all.

The plan in this CWS "thinking" is if the migrants arrive here later as unsuspecting goslings (first-year birds), chances are good that hunters will be easily able to shoot them, too, because they are unaware of the earlier season.

When I, a hunter for 55 years, was first given a copy of these CWS proposals at the wildlife division Feb. 8, I was more than surprised at the extreme measures they reflected. I became angered and stayed that way for days. Even talking to people about it, including members of the group I'm with, Hunters for Conservation, did not do much to quell the anger I felt over potential waterfowl abuse and disrespect these proposals reflect. I felt saddened over the level of disrespect we are capable of showing wildlife that cannot speak or defend itself.

I, and members of my group, want no part of these CWS proposals, nor should others who consider themselves conservationists. Let the people of P.E.I. speak out and demand that the provincial wildlife division reject these proposals.

The word "innocent" is not usually a part of a hunter's vocabulary and it's not even how most conservationists express themselves. But it's now high time to speak out with common sense and compassion and insist on programs that place wildlife welfare first, above the human "need" or "desire" to use it. We can justify harvesting wildlife only when programs are working to keep it at high population levels, and it's not there yet for P.E.I.

We have been extended a privilege to use wildlife wisely. We are the caretakers of it; not the undertakers.

Most Islanders enjoy wildlife for many reasons other than hunting it. As you read this, be assured that someone is feeding wild birds, watching them, maybe counting them, picturing them and painting them in a safe environment. And many others enjoy wildlife because they just like seeing it around and want it maintained at strong population levels.

My deepest concern at this moment is that the wildlife division of the provincial government, in consultation with CWS, will approve at least some of what's being proposed. The wildlife division and CWS "jointly developed" these regulatory proposals, which should be turned back, rejected in favour of what the waterfowl season now is (Oct. 1 - Dec. 8). Nine weeks under the hunting dates as they exist is sufficient time to enjoy "recreational hunting" as it should also be for "commercial hunting" by outfitters and licensed guides.

If anyone thinks he or she can justify the disrespect these CWS proposals advance, then they should do so publicly, or speak out against these proposals so they won't go forward. Don't remain silent. Winter hunting of waterfowl has no place on P.E.I. and should not be allowed, even with climate change. Wildlife needs a chance to rest after the regular season and live to breed again in the spring. That's the sensible way to go. It shows managerial compassion.

Winter hunting of waterfowl is not wise management for P.E.I. and it's no way to welcome the Christmas season, by killing black ducks over the holidays, even if bag limits are reduced. And I even hear talk of Sunday hunting - unacceptable.

The latest black duck survey figures from CWS do not justify more hunting pressure because 2012 favorable figures do not indicate a long enough, sustained trend in healthy waterfowl numbers; only an improvement over one year. Until this past year, the figures for black ducks showed fewer ducks in the mid-winter count as well as fewer ducks in the breeding season, Atlantic and Mississippi flyways included.

And P.E.I. does not have to follow other provinces in liberalized hunting because our hunting conditions aren't the same, as Nova Scotia, for instance, where their south shore is open water during winter. That's where our winter lobsters come from.

CWS wants P.E.I. to conform with other area seasons but the same shoe doesn't fit all and I feel Islanders won't go for it. What the CWS is proposing for P.E.I. appears to be self-serving and reflects contempt for wildlife. It insults Islanders who respect wildlife and want it better managed.

Lorne Yeo of Argyle Shore is past president of the Canadian Wildlife Federation and past president of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation. He is also spokesperson for Hunters for Conservation.

Organizations: Canadian Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Federation, P.E.I. Wildlife Federation

Geographic location: Canada, Iceland, P.E.I. Atlantic Mississippi Nova Scotia

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