Action: Introduce voluntary ‘maximum shoot distances’
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A replicated, randomised before-and-after study from Denmark found that significantly fewer pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus were wounded but not killed, following the implementation of a voluntary maximum shooting distance.
The probability of successfully killing a bird when shooting decreases with distance from the bird. If hunting is regulated by ‘bag limits’ (i.e. the number of birds individuals can harvest), then shooting at birds from a long distance may be detrimental, as many birds are hit but do not die instantly. These escape and die later but are not collected and so are not included in a bag limit. This means that actual mortality from hunting is considerably higher than the set bag limits.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, randomised before-and-after study in March from 1998-2005 in one wetland area in which 150-500 pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus were monitored annually in Jutland, Denmark (Noer et al. 2007) found that the implementation of a voluntary restriction on maximum shooting distance (25 m) in 1997 significantly reduced injury rate during the hunting season. The proportion of wounded first-year and older geese significantly decreased over the study period (7–11% and 18% decrease by 2005 respectively). A simple population dynamic model predicted these decreases to be consistent with a c. 60% reduction of numbers wounded for both age classes. Since 1997, the total annual number of harvested geese in Denmark increased from 15,000 to 30,000. Thus, the authors point out, reductions in numbers wounded did not appear to have had any negative impact on harvest size. A mobile surgical X-ray unit was used to screen for shot. Recaptures accounted for just 1% of the sample.