Controversial activity shatters tranquility of Aussie lake: 'Oh my God'

Shotgun blasts are once again echoing across South Australian waterways as duck season begins.

Usually popular with anglers, campers and sailboarders, shotgun blasts are echoing around the ordinarily serene banks of South Australia’s Lake George.

Video captured in the southeast coastal suburb of Beachport on duck season’s opening weekend, shows hunters wading through the shallows blasting native waterfowl with pellets. While the birds are ordinarily protected, each year the state government lifts protections on a number of lakes and waterways, with shooting allowed until June 25 in 2023.

Duck season remains controversial, dividing animal welfare advocates and shooters each year. The RSPCA, a vocal critic of duck season, raised concerns about the footage, noting wildlife wasn’t immediately killed by the shotgun blasts. In a number of instances, birds appear to be left alive bleeding with shattered bones for minutes before they are put out of their misery.

Left - a sailboarder on the blue coloured lake, with waterbirds in the foreground. Right - a shotgun carrying hunter reaches down to pick up a dying duck
A sailboarder can be seen enjoying Lake George on February 26. Last weekend shotgun carrying hunters began blasting away at ducks. Source: Supplied

Another more disturbing video shows a dog retrieving a maimed bird and dropping it before its master who then then holds the flapping creature by the neck for over a minute. “Oh my god, he’s giving it to the dog,” a woman behind the camera can be heard saying. Rather than kill the bird, the hunter then leaves it on a branch to slowly die. "He's giving it to the dog," they say as they continue to watch.

On Lake George, a hunter holds a duck decoy high in the air whilst carrying a dying duck he's just shot close to his body. Swans can be seen in the background.
A hunter holds a duck decoy high in the air while carrying a dying bird he's just shot close to his body. Source: Supplied

Adelaide resident Kerry travelled from 300km south from Adelaide, to film and witness duck hunting for the first time. Speaking to Yahoo News Australia she said other outdoor enthusiasts appeared to be avoiding the area. "Everyone knows to stay away," she said. "It's not safe and the sound of gunshots isn't pleasant. One minute you're hearing the beautiful sound of hundreds of birds making their natural sounds in their natural habitat, and then every now and again you have this ringing out of guns," she added.

Which state governments allow duck hunting to continue?

A handbook distributed by the South Australian government suggests trained dogs can be “useful” to flush and locate game but states using them to harm animals is prohibited. “Under no circumstances should dogs be encouraged to attack animals. It is an offence for a person to urge a dog to attack or maim another animal,” it reads.

Shooters are required to comply with the state’s animal welfare act which says when an animal is injured “all reasonable steps to mitigate its suffering” must be taken. They are also required to kill animals in a manner that causes “unconsciousness followed by death as rapidly as possible”.

Under South Australian regulations, duck shooting is permitted 30 minutes before and after sunrise at locations approved by the Malinauskas government. It allows hunters to target a number of species including grey teal, chestnut teal, Pacific black duck, Australian shelduck and the maned wood duck.

While NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have banned duck season. It is still encouraged by governments in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Amid ongoing internal pressure from MPs to ban duck season, the Andrews Labor Government announced in February it would approve it for another year in Victoria, but restricted the season to just over a month. Both it and South Australia have announced inquiries into the practice.

The Australian Veterinary Association is opposed to waterfowl hunting because it can cause “unnecessary pain and suffering”, adding it can also disrupt nesting birds like swans.

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