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Northern Ontario Falconer Hunting Regs

Jenn Salo
Jenn Salo  #LSN_Outdoors

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ---  March 9, 2-017  (LSN) Being a falconer in Northern Ontario is an exciting and fascinating recreational outdoor activity. It presents a unique and rare experience to hunt and train with a wild bird of prey. This sport gives the hunter a much different perspective into the world of hunting and provides an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The proposed changes to the small game hunting regulations could potentially have a significant impact on my ability to find suitable game to hunt throughout the season.    

    As an apprentice falconer, I have the permits and licences to legally trap, train and keep in captivity a Red-tailed hawk. To make the effort worthwhile, there needs to be suitable small game to hunt. The most suitable prey to pursue with a hawk in the area of Thunder Bay Ontario (WMU 13, 15B, 21A, 12B, 11B) is the snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse and gray squirrel. The current hunting season for falconers begins Sept. 1 and encompasses the fall, winter and spring until and March 31 for grouse and June 15 for hares. Snowshoe hares are elusive animals that present a challenge to hunt in the winter as they are perfectly suited to the northern climate and environment. The current season is incredibly important to falconers as it provides an opportunity to target hares as the ground cover and fur colours transition with the seasons. As an apprentice entering her first hawk on snowshoe hare, I feel that reducing the season until March 31 would impact our success and learning opportunities, as March, April and May are seen as the most productive hunting months.

    Another proposed change that would have considerable impact on practicing falconry in Northern Ontario is the proposed gray (black) squirrel season for WMU 13. Squirrel hawking is the most easily accessible small game species for falconers to pursue in Ontario as they are an urban species and are abundant throughout most of Ontario. The gray squirrel has been documented to push out the native red squirrel, which is a protected species, from its native territory. The gray squirrel poses a threat to the red squirrel population through competition and the introduction of non-native diseases and pathogens

The proposed hunting regulations for gray squirrel are introduced for firearms only in WMU 5-15, with a bag limit of 5, possession of 15 and a season from Sept 1- Dec 31. On the other hand, WMU 36-50, and 53-95 have a falconry season from Sept 1-March 31. My question is, why is there not a falconry season introduced for WMU 5-15, if it is deemed suitable to hunt them with firearms? Having a falconry season for gray squirrels would improve my ability to hunt more frequently and provide valuable experience for my hawk and I.

    Being a falconer in Northern Ontario presents unique challenges in finding and pursuing small game. The learning curve for training and entering a hawk on game is an incredible experience, and the proposed changes to the hunting regulations would greatly impact the opportunity to practice falconry in Northern Ontario.

By: Jenn Salo

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