The Flemish minister for nature, Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has introduced a local hunting ban for the rest of the season for pheasant, hare and partridge. The reason: hunters have been planting captive birds in fields to attract wild birds so they can be shot.
The practice, Demir said, is “illegal and unacceptable”. Nonetheless, it is fairly common.
The way it works is this: the hunters or their confederates breed the animal they want to hunt – depending on the area or terrain – and use the females as bait.
Then, when they reach maturity, it is a simple matter to set them out in nature, in something like a cat-carrier or a cage, and wait as their calls attract others of the same species to the area.
At that point the ‘hunters’ can fairly easily pick them off while their attention is elsewhere.
Last week inspectors from the Flemish Agency for Nature and Woodland (ANB) discovered five partridges set out in cages, intended to keep about 30 wild birds in the area around Veurne in West Flanders occupied so that hunters could kill them.
It’s not an isolated incident, and it’s not restricted to the Westhoek. At the end of August, two walkers knocked on the door of the nature centre in Oudsbergen in Limburg – at the other end of the country – carrying a box containing nine partridges, one of the centre’s workers, Sil Janssen, wrote in Het Belang Van Limburg.
The open season on partridge only opened in September, so the hunters, or rather the trappers, were well prepared.
“Most likely someone wanted to enrich his hunting grounds with some partridges. After all, the partridge hunt opens in September. And if there are no partridges, of course you cannot shoot any,” he wrote in the paper.
“Just as often happens with pheasants and wild boars, partridges are also released here and there. It’s a matter of having a surplus, otherwise nothing can be shot. But partridge shooting turns my stomach,” he admitted.
“These birds are on the red list of endangered species. And then hunters dare to claim (and pretend they believe it themselves) that shooting is important to maintain this species. I have a very difficult time with that.”
The new hunting ban for smaller wild species is now in force for the rest of the season in the lands around Veurne, Alveringem, Vleteren, Lo-Reninge and Poperinge.
“Our inspectors have done a great job,” Demir told the VRT.
“A criminal investigation must now be conducted to prosecute the perpetrators, but we are not going to rest on our laurels, and will go one step further. I have decided that all hunting activities for small game species of pheasant, hare and partridge in the entire are area of the game management unit is prohibited. If you don’t want to listen, you will feel the consequences. Illegal breeding and restocking of partridges is an unacceptable practice.”