To hunt or not to hunt: bird flu leads to a dilemma for duck hunters

To hunt or not to hunt: bird flu leads to a dilemma for duck hunters

This column is an opinion by Gord Follett, former editor of Newfoundland athlete. For more information about CBC opinion sectionplease review Instructions.

By no means would I consider myself an avid waterfowl. Even “somewhat serious” will pay off.

Since my last hunt for geese and ducks on Prince Edward Island about eight years ago, waterfowl have been more than an occasional chase to me, which means I was after another small game like rabbit or grouse and happened upon a few freshwater ducks or a couple of Geese in a pond or gully. It’s also been a long time since I rode the Atlantic to hunt ducks and stags.

However, over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about duck hunting – specifically what some of my fellow duck hunting companions and waterfowl in general would be doing all over Newfoundland and Labrador, now that bird flu is so rampant in these parts. Although it is rare, it still poses a serious health risk to humans.

There is definitely a dilemma for us this year– Peter Emberley, hunter

Thousands of seabirds such as moors (also known as moors), gulls and gannets washed up along our coasts this summer; Some are already dead, others are on the coasts, dying so slowly that the heart has to watch. Some freshwater birds have also been found to be infected with the virus.

The local waterfowl, perhaps the most enthusiastic group of hunters out there, seem to be facing a major dilemma this year: Will they keep hunting?

If so, will they eat the birds they kill? Do they not care about their health?

I’ve spoken to several duck hunters in recent weeks, and while I’m not completely shocked, I was somewhat surprised to discover that most of them – nearly 75 percent of the people over the age of 90 I’ve contacted across the county From my mini-questionnaire – I have every intention of continuing their favorite search again this year. (Freshwater duck and geese season begins on September 17, while start dates for eiders and other seabirds are usually October and November, depending on fishing areas.)

Peter Emberley Sr., right, and his son Peter Emberley, Jr. showing the results of their morning duck hunting expedition on the Avalon Peninsula. (Provided by Peter Emberley)

To hunt or not to hunt

“There is definitely a dilemma for us this year,” St John’s Peter Emberley admitted.

“The day before duck season is commonly known to us as ‘Duck Eve’, just like Christmas Eve for the kids. That’s all we talk about. We breathe, sleep, dream about ducks, make duck calls, and start cuddling a couple weeks before we open, but that feeling has faded this year with Bird flu.

“This is not the first time we have been warned, but it is the first time that dead birds have been seen in all coastal waters around the island. A lot of fishermen have brains about whether they should fish. I have heard some say they will fish today. Editorial But they won’t eat birds. For me, that’s not an option. If I hunt, I can’t waste a bird. It goes against everything I believe in. If I don’t [plan to] Eat it, I don’t shoot it.”

Emberley has only made the decision to fish this year over the past two weeks, although he will be taking precautions.

“It appears that this disease affects birds more in coastal waters than in local ponds, lakes and canyons,” he said. He added that this does not mean that he is not internal either.

“I invested in a picker that is not made of wood, so it can be completely disinfected after each use. The birds will have to be handled very carefully once the processing begins and again when it is time to cook them. We will choose to put on some bibs and long gloves when we are handling the birds, just to be safe “.

Two brown ducks swim on the water.
Tests have proven that waterfowl across Newfoundland, including ducks in Lake Quede Vidi, have tested positive for bird flu. (Provided by Gord Follett)

Uncertainty of the season

Passionate seabird hunter Blake Russell of Louisporte, currently on a tanker in the Arctic on a stint, will sail the Atlantic in search of ducks and chill again next season – if there’s an open season for chill, and signs like I write this point to close season .

“Most of the towers and ducks we kill come from the north; and it seems that most of the sick towers on the northeastern coast are from the funk islands. [Funk Islands]Russell said.

“We usually wait for northern hurricanes anyway, which come later…and I haven’t seen any sign of sick or flying birds here in the Hudson Bay and Baffin area. If I were at home, I would have been catching birds this year, but I’d be more careful, on the I guess. But I will definitely chase the feast when I’m out this winter.”

Rob Stringer of Caplin Cove, Trinity Bay, has been looking forward to next season, just as he always does, but says his gooseberry pistol and trusted yellow lab Molly won’t see much action in 2022.

“I can’t risk this bird flu,” he said, adding that at least five of his co-workers at Voisey’s Bay feel the same way.

On the southwest coast of Newfoundland, Mark LeMond, director of the Newfoundland Duck Hunters group on Facebook, said he would “definitely” be hunting ducks this year.

“All my comrades say the same thing,” he added.

While this strain of H5N1 is more prevalent this year, he said, it “has been more or less always present in our local bird populations.”

He said Le Monde’s main concern at the moment is not his health but the health of his chickens, as he owns a small hobby farm and this strain of bird flu is fatal to poultry. Other than taking several precautions to protect them, he said, “everything else will be the same” in terms of hunting habits.

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