Duck hunting season should be longer to combat crop damage, say Victorian farmers | Ralph-Lauren

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Farmers and hunters are calling for an extension to the Victorian duck hunting season, claiming certain species are detrimental to crops and waterways and need to be controlled.

This season runs from 8:00am today and will conclude in 20 days, down from the usual 12 weeks, with a bag limit of five listed game ducks per day.

Wayne Shields grows leafy greens on the Mornington Peninsula and he said the decision to reduce the duck hunting season this year was naive and would take a toll on farmers.

“Everyone likes ducks, I thought they were pretty and great but then I just started to see the numbers explode,” he said.

“The wood ducks are the ones causing all of the damage, the black ducks are quite benign and no problem around here. But the wood ducks move in by the hundreds and they’re really quite prolific.”

“To me, it’s a nightmare because the buggers come in at night and they just mow and clean me out completely and they’ve done it a number of times over a number of years.”

A family of wood ducks
Farmers claim the Australian wood duck (Chenonetta jubata) causes extreme damage to crops and waterways.(

Supplied: Ralph Green/flickr.com

)

Mr Shields and his wife, Natasha, run Peninsula Fresh Organics and he said there was nothing he could do to stop the invasion.

Open season

Due to the damage caused by wood ducks, Mr Shields said there should be a year-round open season on the breed and farmers should be allowed to shoot birds if required to address infestations on productive land. 

“I don’t know why we can’t just get their numbers down across the board and let the other ducks come back a bit,” he said.

“[Wood ducks] highly pollute regional waterways too … on our dam banks it’s terrible, I’ve got to have reasonably clean water to grow my vegies and they’re an issue.

Wood ducks cause extra damage to crops during full moons, as they are known to graze in large numbers all night.

A man in a vegetable sorting shed
Mr Shields says the damage caused to his lettuce crops by wood ducks is a nightmare.(

Supplied: Natasha Shields

)

Gary Howard is with Field and Game Australia and he said farmers regularly asked him to help control wood duck numbers on their properties and the bag limit for the breed should be extended.

“In extreme cases, I’ve seen numbers close to 200. But on average a mob of wood ducks is in the order of 40 or 50, and if the food is there that they want to chase the mob gets bigger,” he said.

Is hunting the solution?

Mr Howard said the species were optimistic breeders.

“Even if two or three hunters go shooting 10 to 15 birds for the day you’re not reducing the numbers,” he said.

Duck hunting
Duck hunting season begins at 8:00am on Wednesday, May 26.(

ABC News: Jane Cowan

)

Wood ducks and teal ducks are identified in the Victorian Game Management Authority’s (GMA) 2020 Aerial Survey to have higher than average abundances on small farm dams compared with other game species.

Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at UNSW, said although wood ducks inhabited farm dams and ate crops, extending the duck season may not achieve what farmers wanted.

“There are so many farm dams spread over the landscape that wood ducks can move from one dam to another, and the actual duck hunting that occurs tends to happen on large wetlands and less so on farms,” he said.

“Wood ducks aren’t doing that well on the large wetlands and that’s because we’re having less flooding on those wetlands so there’s less habitat for them there.

Professor Kingsford is calling on the government to invest more in research to address the threat certain species of waterbirds caused for some farmers, so non-lethal alternatives to destroying the birds were easily accessible and effective.

A GMA spokesperson said the authority used the best available science to make recommendations to the government.

“This is why the GMA revised its advice to the Minister on the 2021 duck season arrangements upon receiving results of the pilot aerial survey, which provided a much more detailed understanding of the game duck abundance in Victoria,” they said.



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