NEPA urges hunters to return baldpate tags
Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is advising hunters in Trelawny to retrieve and retain any satellite transmitters they may find on the bodies of baldpates (white-crowned pigeon) shot during the annual game bird-hunting season, which started yesterday and continues until September 21.
The birds have been fitted with the device as part of an ongoing research project being undertaken by NEPA in collaboration with the Florida, United States (US)-based Avian Research and Conservation Institute. The project forms part of a study to determine the birds' migration patterns.
Ricardo Miller, NEPA's game bird expert, told The Sunday Gleaner that while Jamaica's baldpate pattern remains very strong, their numbers have been declining in other countries, with the global population deemed to be threatened but not facing extinction.
This decline is very noticeable in the US.
Describing the project as "really exciting research", Miller explained that local bird experts are anticipating the results of the collaboration with their American colleagues.
"The US is really pushing this. They want to look at the movement of the birds to see how they migrate from Florida to Cuba, to The Bahamas, and so forth. And we, in Jamaica, have always wanted to know whether our baldpates actually migrate to Cuba or so," Miller admitted.
He said there was anecdotal evidence to support this theory but he was yet to be convinced, in the absence of data to support the claim.
"I think it is very plausible that they do migrate, but we don't know in what quantity or what time of year; we know nothing about it. Some people swear blind that some of the baldpates speak Spanish."
Hunters finding the satellite receivers are advised to call 478-8107 or 754-7540 to arrange for their retrieval.
STICK TO GUIDELINES
Meanwhile, the agency is reminding hunters that the heads of all birds must be retained for inspection by NEPA officers or game wardens, with hunting sessions running from sunrise to 9 a.m. and 2:30 to sunset on Saturdays, and sunrise to 9 a.m. on Sundays.
Only 20 birds may be harvested per session, of which no more than 15 should be baldpate, with the mourning dove (long-tailed pea dove), zenalda dove (pea dove) and white-winged dove being the other birds which can be hunted during the season.
In addition, it is illegal to hunt within game reserves, game sanctuaries and forest reserves and hunters should maintain a minimum 50-metre distance from the boundaries of game reserves.