Written by: Heather Clemenceau
(Please note that this blog includes graphic images)
Now, more than ever, the Short Hills Hunting Protocol is revealed as a useless, non-binding document whereby neither party to the protocol have the means nor the will to adhere to or enforce it. It makes no effort to address the current COVID pandemic as do other government health advisories for hunters. Restaurants in Niagara had previously required ID to prove that patrons were local, but anyone can attend this hunt without concern for coronavirus restrictions. Occupants of parked cars mingled freely with each other, while the Six Nations have declared an outbreak crisis after an upsurge of cases.
- Follow physical distancing measures by keeping a two-metre distance with people who do not live at the same address as you;
- Favour practicing your activity close to your main residence or in your administrative region;
- Travel with people living at the same address as you. Otherwise, plan on using more than one vehicle (car, ATV, etc.);
The Government of Canada also created a risk-mitigation tool that addresses outdoor activities, including hunting:
“If there is known COVID-19 activity in the community, the likelihood that it could be introduced into an outdoor space or recreational activity is higher. The risk of COVID-19 introduction and spread is also presumed to be greater if a higher proportion of individuals visiting the outdoor spaces or participating in the activity comes from outside of the community.”
In previous hunts, cars from out-of-province have been observed, and the staff of Ontario Parks who host the hunt also drive in from outside of the area. The hunters own published videos show that inside the hunt zone they don’t bother to observe reasonable social distancing precautions. Hunting in Short Hills is possibly the only place hunting occurs without any references to precautionary principles in the time of COVID.
Every year dead or dying animals are found on or close to property lines, whether private homes or the Scout camp. A study conducted by the Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife Agencies found that approximately 50% of deer that were shot were never recovered. Some deer survived for up to 5–7 days before succumbing to their wounds. The protocol doesn’t address the issue that hunters are therefore often shooting towards a boundary (as evidenced by the number of animals found on or near property lines). Homeowners were forced to confront the gruesome remains of this doe, who was partially consumed by coyotes after a botched kill shot (doe evidently shot while fleeing).
After each hunt, the users of the park inevitably discover sickening blood trails and guts left near or on main trails. Perhaps the hunters would like to reposition this bio-mess to an area off the main trails? Leaving a gut pile in close proximity to a multi-use public trail is not the least bit respectful to other users but is hardly surprising. There is a culture of intolerance in the hunting community in general towards others user of wildlife areas and this is a prime example. It IS distressing that this is left in an area with high foot/recreational traffic and it attracts predators to the area where people are often walking with dogs. You can argue that scavengers will clean it up quickly, but that offers no protection to anyone walking their dog who happens to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time – it is currently coyote breeding season. People also don’t want to drag their dogs out of the gut pile. This is no different than leaving garbage behind in the park. Short Hills is a park and not an area set aside for hunting. Biking, walking, and skiing (and not hunting) are why the park exists!
One of the gut piles revealed disturbing remnants of the kill, left for the casual park user to discover at their leisure. The two fetuses discarded in the snow are evidence that the deer have good availability of food resources, that there have been good weather conditions for plant growth, and they are likely in better-than-average body condition. Reproduction rates are linked to the plane of nutrition (defined as the quantity and quality of food intake). Because of the high metabolic cost of pregnancy, it is reasonable to expect females with larger body size (i.e., more fat) to be better suited to tolerate body fat loss, and thus produce multiple fetuses per pregnancy, thereby going a long way towards refuting the oft-claimed opinion that the deer feeding requirements have eclipsed the ability of the park to provide.
Mature evergreens are also being heavily damaged for the purpose of creating hunt blinds. Ontario Trails has rules for a minimal impact approach – because this is a park and not a raw forest. At least one hunt in Ottawa Hills (Ohio) that was otherwise not opposed by nearby residents, was ended in part due to the forest damage caused by the hunters.
Within one hour of the commencement of the hunt on November 3rd, a hunter was observed moving through the Hydro corridor in the area of several private properties. Ontario Parks staff attended and removed him. Hunt blinds are also being set up outside the hunt zone. The difference between poaching and hunting is one of permission.
Hunting accidents occur between hunters all the time. Add any park visitors who aren’t hunters, and you have a recipe for disaster. Two non-hunters (one with a dog) were able to gain access to the park during an active hunt despite assurances in The Protocol that the entry points would be virtually impregnable due to the vigilance of MERC and the MNRF. Was the hunt stopped under the circumstances? Nobody can/will say.
Opening the parks to hunting is unnecessary, unsafe, and introduces whole new layers of bureaucracy and expense. Leave the parks alone so that they can function as they were intended: to preserve the land and wildlife for future generations to enjoy.
The protocol for the 2020/2021 hunt makes absolutely no mention of coronavirus precautions, even though the Government of Canada published a risk mitigation tool for outdoor spaces.