A recent petition to ban duck hunting in the upper Narragansett Bay has raised some questions among locals about what is legal and what is not. Following is a list of questions posed to officials at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management regarding duck hunting:
BT: Are there regulations about duck hunting near occupied osprey perches?
DEM: There is no specific law about hunting near an osprey nest; however, you cannot harass or shoot a protected bird. (20-14-1 Birds protected.)
BT: What is the law about hunting in areas surrounded by homes, such as in Hundred Acre Cove?
DEM: You cannot discharge a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling without permission of the owner. (20-13-7 Shooting in proximity to occupied buildings.)
BT: Are there laws about hunting near bird sanctuaries? Hundred Acre Cove is bordered by the Doug Rayner Refuge to the north and by the Osemaquin Bird Sanctuary to the west.
DEM: No, with the exception of the Sachuest Wildlife Refuge. In the Barrington instances, the hunters are below mean high tide and not hunting on the property of the refuges. If they were to enter onto the refuges and if the property is posted with no trespass or no hunting signs, a hunter could be charged for trespassing. While the fact that the Sachuest refuge is closed to hunting is not unique, the water to low tide is unique. A major difference with species in need of protections is that harlequins are at Sachuest. This area is closed to hunting and of concern by Canadian Wildlife Service. (11-44-4 Shooting, trapping or fishing on posted lands.)
BT: Are duck hunters allowed to fire onto refuge property if they themselves are not situated on refuge property? For example, could a duck hunter shoot onto refuge property if he was sitting on one of the marshy islands in Hundred Acre Cove?
DEM: You cannot discharge onto the land of another without their permission. (11-47-50 Firing without landowner’s permission.)
BT: Any reaction to the petition circulating that calls for banning duck hunting in the upper bay?
DEM: The areas of the Providence River and Hundred Acre Cove have been a traditional duck hunting location for many years. Historically, blinds and hunters have been observed up and down Narragansett Bay and specifically in these identified locations. DEM environmental police officers regularly check the people hunting these locations and we find a very high level of compliance. We see a higher level of participation in early to middle January due to the variety of species observed in our area. Many hunters find our state to be a prime area for hunting migratory waterfowl and due to this activity we see an increased interest in tourism. Residents and tourists spend $10 million annually in Rhode Island on hunting-related expenditures including food, lodging, transportation and equipment.
In addition to providing an opportunity for residents and visitors to engage in outdoor recreation, hunting contributes to the economic health of the state. According to statistics from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2006), a combined total of $378 million is spent annually in Rhode Island on trip and equipment-related expenditures for fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching activities.
It’s also important to add that duck and other hunters have been leading advocates for conservation of habitat and wildlife.