By Margaret El-Chami
GRIFFITH, NSW — Only 250 shooters attended the opening of the NSW duck hunting season at Barrenbox Swamp near here on March 21, many fewer than in previous years.
Celia Jarvis, a voluntary duck rescuer at the site, reported that officers of the NSW Field and Game Association had recommended the shooters stay away from the area during the opening weekend and return after the rescuers left. The increased presence of National Parks and Wildlife rangers appeared to have influenced this warning.
Seventy rescuers were present over the weekend. They identified themselves as rescuers, not protesters. On the first day, rescuers retrieved 30 injured birds, including five from protected species.
It is a criminal offence carrying a $2000 fine to injure or kill a protected or endangered species.
"It's inevitable that you're going to find protected and endangered species shot, mainly because the shooters use lead shot", said Katherine Antram from the Terry Hills Duck Coalition. Lead shots spray, injuring or killing birds other than the one fired at.
According to Antram, shooters start their killing at five in the morning, while it is still dark. "All they see is a black silhouette. They have no idea of what they're shooting at."
Alcohol consumption by some participants is also a factor. Rescuers at Lake Cowal, near West Wyalong, for example, were amazed at the number of liquor containers they found on site during the first day of the season. It is an offence in NSW to mix firearms and alcohol.
In a letter to the director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, bird specialist Dr Ross Alan Perry described last year's season at Barrenbox Swamp as a "booze up".