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Bird shooting season returns to normal

Published:Wednesday | August 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM
This year, bird hunters will enjoy a full six weekends for the first time in three years.

The annual bird shooting season, which gets under way on Saturday and runs until Sunday, September 24, will see hunters enjoying a full six weekends for the first time in three years.

"We have returned to normal," Ricardo Miller, environmental co-ordinator at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), told The Gleaner.

This follows the decision by the agency in 2015 to cut the season short by one weekend, out of concern about the potential impact of drought on the bird population.

"Although we did a survey that showed we could have a full season, we are still taking a precautionary approach. Our research is still not foolproof. It's still just an assessment and a best guess, really, so we decided to apply a precautionary approach to this season," Miller had said at the time.

NEPA usually sets the starting time for the season at 16 weeks after the peak of the breeding season. Two years ago, however, the agency was concerned that the birds might have experienced a feed shortage as a direct result of the drought, which might have slowed their development. Of particular concern was the baldpate, which sources food mainly from a variety of feeder trees and does not go to ground to feed.

This year, however, NEPA is satisfied that the four birds which may be legally hunted during the season are no longer facing the threats they did then. It will, however, be monitoring, as usual, to see that hunters observe bag limits and shoot within the prescribed times of sunrise to 9:00 am and 2:30 pm to sunset on Saturdays; and from sunrise to 9:00 am on Sunday. Shooting outside these times is an offence punishable under the law, with breaches of the Wild Life Protection Act attracting fines of $100,000 and or a 12-month imprisonment.

The zenaida/pea dove; the white-winged dove; the white-crowned pigeon, also known as the baldpate; and the mourning/long-tailed pea dove are the only birds up for shooting.

The bag limit for each shooting session remains at 20 birds, of which no more than 15 should be the baldpate. In addition, the feathered heads of all birds shot must be retained for inspection, and no shooting is allowed within game reserves/sanctuaries, forest reserves, or within 50 metres from the boundaries of game reserves/sanctuaries.