Sarnia is one of a dwindling minority of Ontario municipalities that does not allow Sunday gun hunting, but that could soon change.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has asked the city to allow hunting on Sunday, saying the extra day would better manage wildlife numbers and provide a pro-active approach to farm crop losses.
The federation is probably correct on both counts, but city council should still reject the request.
Hunting is a charged issue that divides rural residents from urbanites quicker than you can say Kathleen Wynne. And because Sarnia is a municipality with a geographic 50-50 urban-rural split, many here would welcome the extra hunting time.
As the federation argues, wildlife numbers are exploding across North America, and not just in the fields and forests outside city limits.
Fifty years ago Sarnia’s residential neighbourhoods were zoologically barren, squirrels aside. But this summer in my own little backyard I’ve counted 10 different mammals – rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, skunks, opossums – and that’s not including the coyote that loped across the park or the white-tailed buck that lumbered out of the fog a few years back.
Even a rare peregrine falcon perched on a limb of our backyard tree and ripped apart a songbird last month, leaving only a puff of feathers.
My own take on hunting is conflicted. Once a licensed hunter who soured on the killing, I replaced my shotgun with binoculars and now donate to the Nature Conservancy.
That said, I have no problem with anyone who puts meat on the table from a regulated hunt designed to keep unsustainable populations of game animals in check.
Canada geese, for one, are out of control. They are a nuisance in parks and a downright menace on farm fields.
The 32 million white-tailed deer in the U.S. is more than when Columbus arrived, according to the National Wildlife Research Centre. Ontario hunters kill 70,000 annually, yet deer continue to munch through crops, orchards and farm incomes in swelling numbers. During the fall rut in Sarnia-Lambton, car-deer collisions average one a day, which seems a dangerous, expensive and inefficient method of culling.
Nevertheless, I’m opposed to Sunday hunting on the grounds of Public Safety, and its first cousin, Peace of Mind.
Sarnians can currently go for a walk on Sundays during hunting season without fear of encountering someone with a loaded gun around the next bend, or perched in a tree blind.
Many say Sarnia’s hunting bylaw is already too lax, including the residents of Bluewater Country Adult Leisure Living Community who signed a petition in 2012 after their properties were showered with stray shotgun pellets.
City hall plans to hold a public meeting this fall to take the pulse on Sunday hunting before reporting back to city council.
Here’s my two cents worth early: Hunters, have at it. But leave Sundays for the rest of us.
– George Mathewson