More than 22,500 people so far have signed a fast-growing petition calling for a ban on hunting in the area surrounding the Cowichan River Estuary.
The petition began following the shooting of a swan over a popular walking path earlier this month near the estuary.
Cowichan Bay’s Laurie Arbuthnot started the petition after the incident, with a goal “to protect all the wildlife in this important birding area.”
On the petition site, which can be found at Change.org/BanEstuaryHunting, Arbuthnot says the estuary has accessible walking trails enjoyed by the community and visitors alike of all ages, but the walking trails are alongside hunting areas.
“The shots being fired so close to walkers is frightening, let alone the fact that the hunting is allowed in this important ecosystem,” she said.
“The community shudders every time the blasts are heard, but the final straw was on Nov. 13 after a beautiful pair of swans had taken flight only for one to be shot and not killed but coming to the ground by the walking trail. Due to the quick and kind action of local birders and walkers, the swan was saved and hopes are it will survive as it was taken to a recovery centre. The hunter did not come to see how the injured swan was. It was an act of sickening, malicious destruction.”
The Cowichan River Estuary is a 400-hectare estuary ecosystem and internationally designated Important Bird Area.
The estuary hosts vast numbers of rare migratory and year-round birds such as trumpeter swans, bald eagles, blue herons, and many varieties of ducks, geese and song birds.
But Hunter Braeden Hardie defended hunting in areas close to the estuary, stating in a letter to the editor that it has been going on there legally for generations.
He said the province has laws in place that prohibit shooting within close distances to public walking trails.
“Those who break these laws and put others in danger should be reported and prosecuted. Legal and ethical hunters should not be punished for the ignorance of others who hunt in Cowichan Bay,” Hardie said.
“Recent posts online have described the perpetrator [in the shooting of the swan] as a ‘hunter’, which could not be further from the truth. Hunters hunt to obtain meat that they intend to eat. Those who shoot animals and leave them to die with no intention of harvesting meat are poachers, not hunters. Trumpeter swans are a protected species in B.C., and therefore the killing of them is illegal. Hunters do not intentionally partake in illegal acts. Punish the poachers, not the hunters.”