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Byrne: change in legislation due to public concern about firing high-powered rifles at night
Farmers who discover moose destroying their crops at night must call in a conservation officer to kill the animal, says Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne.
In a Telegram story Thursday, central Newfoundland and Labrador farmer Kent Fudge said he lost $5,000 in cabbage in a single night because farmers are no longer allowed to shoot moose at night under a nuisance permit. Fisheries and Land Resources was unable to respond to the story Thursday.
Friday morning, Byrne told The Telegram that provincial legislation banned night hunting in 2016, and that change removed an exception for farmers that had existed allowing them to kill moose at night if they were on their land destroying their crops.
Fudge had said farmers were able to get nuisance permits to qualify for that ability to control moose by following certain criteria during the kill.
Byrne said the change in legislation came about because of public concern about firing high-powered rifles at night.
Byrne said conservation officers are on call 24-7, 365 days a week.
“The response time of the officers is quick,” he said.
If they have to kill a moose on a farm, the meat would then be passed on to someone on a list who can’t hunt because of disability.
This balance of having the conservation officer respond protects both the farmer and the public, Byrne said.
He said there have been no reports over the years of a farmer injuring a person or property when shooting a moose, but it’s about being proactive rather than reactive.
“One never knows why a rifle is being fired, so that obviously causes a concern,” he said of the public not being in the loop that the shot they heard is from a farmer on a field.
Byrne said the issue of moose destroying crops is “not a widely-held concern within the farm community.”
He said farmers can put fencing up with the assistance of agriculture funding arrangements.
(Fudge had suggested fences don’t stop the moose.)
Byrne also noted the Farmer’s Protection Act protects both the interests of the farmer and the public, citing a recent decision on the northeast Avalon that instructed a farmer to stop turning on bright lights at night in a greenhouse near a residential area. He speculated the moose killing might have the same result if given the same test.
As for why the policy change in 2016 did not resonate until this year, Byrne suggested it’s because the moose problem is not frequent.
As for the suggestion that lower-powered rifles be allowed, Byrne noted slugs in a shotgun are a permitted method for hunting moose, but that does not resolve the noise/personal security alarm issues surrounding discharge of firearms at night.
It also may not be humane.
“Aiming a gun at night does cause a potential issue of accuracy. To kill a moose, accuracy of hitting the vulnerable zones of the animal to ensure quick dispatch is important,” Byrne said.
“Conservation officers would only dispatch a moose at night with a shotgun and slug if they had reasonably high confidence of a successful hit in the kill zone.”