Shooting of feral chickens sparks outrage

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The shooting of feral chickens has been condemned by a former animal welfare officer left shocked by gunfire at Clearwater Beach.

But the policy of targeted shooting has been defended by a government department that is besieged by calls to eliminate the pest birds.

Debbie Masters, formerly of the SPCA, said she had been “outraged” and called police after a van pulled up and opened fire while she was walking a dog last week at the popular East End beach.

“It was grossly out of order that a van could just pull up by the children’s playground and fire off shots with a rifle.

“There were maybe six shots. A girl jogging was scared to death by it.”

She said dead chickens had been left behind, and criticised the use of firearms instead of trapping and euthanising the birds.

Ms Masters added that, with a July firearm incident at a nearby restaurant still fresh in peoples’ minds, the shooting would cause needless alarm.

“If they need to do it, they need to block the area off ahead of time. I had shots going off right in front of me.”

The island’s feral chicken population was estimated to number in the tens of thousands four years ago, when the control initiative was started.

According to a spokeswoman, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had since fielded 843 requests for birds to be dealt with.

Chicken culling was launched in October 2012, and bagged 1,700 birds in the first six months, with the Cooper’s Island, adjacent to Clearwater, yielding more than 280.

The birds are blamed for the spread of disease and crop damage as well as keeping residents awake.

Targeted shooting is among several methods, the spokeswoman said, and an efficient way of culling “small numbers of pest chickens at a distance”.

“The current pest control shooters are all licensed by the Bermuda Police Service and experienced not only in good firearm control and marksmanship, but also in safe hunting practices, which is especially important in our increasingly urban environment.

“The department has concentrated feral chicken control in hotspots such as at Southside in St David’s, the Airport, Spittal Pond, Dockyard, Marsh Folly, but also at rest homes, golf courses, agricultural fields, school grounds and many residential neighbourhoods across the island. Every effort is made to collect the targeted chickens, which are then disposed at the Tynes Bay Incinerator.”

The initiative is one of control rather than eradication, she said — but the public are asked not to feed the birds, tamper with traps, or “interfere with officers in the field” — as well as keeping domestic chickens from roaming, and refraining from releasing unwanted chickens.

Details on the programme are given at www.environment.bm/feral-bird-service.

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Published Oct 18, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 18, 2016 at 8:21 am)

Shooting of feral chickens sparks outrage

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