Shoreline residents and waterfowl can rest in peace – duck hunting season ended on Sunday – but the squawking over shooting, especially after the tragedy at Newtown, promises to go on for some time.
“There’s been a general sensitivity toward the discharge of guns,” Larry Mouradjian, associate director of the Department of Environmental Management, said Tuesday. He acknowledged an increase in complaints this year about hunters and, in particular, duck hunters.
The hunting of waterfowl is permitted up and down the bay, with the basic restrictions being hunters must be at least 500 feet from occupied buildings and they must discharge their guns away from residences. This virtually makes 39 miles of city coastline hunting grounds to hunters in boats, although, as hunters know and tradition holds true, some spots are far better than others.
Some of the best spots for ducks and geese are Gaspee Point, Occupasstuxet Cove, off Narragansett Parkway, and even off Pawtuxet. These are also areas that are highly populated, so it’s not surprising that people are complaining about shooting that can start a half-hour before sunrise and continue a half-hour after sunset. Greenwich Bay is also a popular location, as evidenced by Marsha Leonard who sent this email report to the Beacon:
“I was at Goddard Park at the beach area with a friend Sunday morning about 10. We heard rifle shots, about half a dozen of them. Shortly after hearing the shots, we saw three men step on the shore. They were in Desert Storm type camouflage suits. One had a rifle in a carrying case. They brought a boat up from the water and placed it in a truck. Is this allowed in such a public area?”
The answer is yes.
Another email received Sunday came from a Gaspee area resident. The writer, who requested not to be named, said she called DEM to complain about the noise. She said she was told it was the end of the season and that if she wanted to do something about it, the local municipality has the ability to control hunting.
“Maybe this is the time to act. It is insane that a handful of hunters could impact thousands of people with the sound of their firing,” she wrote.According to the DEM 1,747 duck stamps, one of the best indicators of the number of duck hunters were sold in 2011.
As Mouradjian describes it, the municipality does and does not have the ability to regulate hunting. It depends where it is. Warwick does not allow the discharge of firearms on city property. When it comes to the bay, the state sets the rules.
“I hear it from my house, too,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday. “Because it’s their water, it’s a state provision.” Those regulations, which take into consideration bag limits by species in conjunction with wildlife management plans, are drafted following a public workshop. Municipal ordinances don’t apply, although, Mouradjian notes, there was a case three or four years ago where Middletown passed an ordinance affecting Third Beach, establishing that moored vessels be given the same 500-foot clearance as residences.
The other means of changing the regulations is by legislation.
Rep. Joseph McNamara tried two or three years ago, when he introduced a bill that would have banned hunting from Port Edgewood south to Conimicut Point.
McNamara met stiff opposition from the NRA, including some of his own constituents. The legislation didn’t get anywhere and he doesn’t see pursuing it again soon. But that doesn’t mean he’s insensitive to complaints. He received several calls last weekend about shooting that started as early as 5 a.m.
One caller “thought they were living in the Hunger Games.”
He said he spoke with Janet Coit, DEM director, and later received a call from a DEM enforcement officer who said several violations were issued.
Many complaints, he said, emanate from hunters at Salter Grove, off Narragansett Parkway, who hunt from the breakwater.
While there are no houses near the breakwater, McNamara said they are hunting within 100 yards of a park playground. In addition, he said hunters appear to be responsible for the volume of litter at the park, including beer cans.
There’s more to the issue than hunters and guns.
Mouradjian said hunting is used as a form of wildlife management. He said Canada geese have become so prevalent that they are a nuisance. He also noted that people have become increasingly aware of how birds adversely affect water quality.
“Hunting is a legal means of wildlife management,” Mouradjian said.
Apart from a high level of calls about gunshots, Mouradjian said the season was basically uneventful. He said complaints are investigated and that there were only a handful of minor violations.