Hunting: after drought and fires, should animals have a truce this year?

dog hunt
Although hunting has gradually resumed in France since late August, several voices are rising to ask wild animals for some rest. (©LL/Success in Périgord)

Between episodes of extreme heat, a particularly dry summer of 2022 and large fires, the nature It has been heavily tested in recent months. While the hunt has been in full swing in France since late August, several voices are rising to ask a little rest for wild animals during the 2022-2023 hunting season.

“We are going to have a very low survival rate, especially for the youngest ones, this year”, laments Roger Mathieu, an activist for France Nature Environnement at the Drôme, at the microphone of the RMC-BFM. The National Federation of Hunters (FNC), does not take any steps to follow… for now.

A hunting period over seven months

Each year in France about a million hunters validate your license to be allowed to practice during the hunting season – from August 23, 2022 to March 31, 2023 at the latest, depending on the department. Seven months therefore, cumulatively, during which wild boar, deer, pheasant or hare may be legally hunted (unless there is a local derogation).

But after this summer of 2022 – the second hottest on record, according to Météo France – the animals could suffer from the lack of water and drought. “We are lucky to still have water flowing from the tap. Unfortunately, not everyone can say the same,” comments our local editorial team. The Retz Country Mail Pauline Trouillard, president of the Hirondelle association.

Bird flu, also called “bird flu”, has also decimated poultry farms and wild birds since the beginning of summer. France even raised its alert level to “moderate” on Sunday, October 2, recalls the website of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Not to mention the devastating fires, especially in the Gironde. In this context, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation convened the government at the end of July to postpone the opening date of the hunt in this department to give a “truce” to the animals victims of the flames. An opinion that turned out not to be followed, the 2022-2023 hunting season has really begun.

adapt the hunt

must then restrict hunting this season? The French National Federation of Hunters (FNC) responds in the negative. “There is no need today to give a truce to wild animals”confirm for Thierry Coste, his representative.

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Observation work was done before the hunt. We are on the ground, so the first informed, and the local and departmental federations are very involved in the matter. If there had been any kind of warning, we would have reduced the maximum hunting quota or even suspended the hunt.

Thierry CosteLobbyist and representative of the National Federation of Hunters

Another possibility: postpone hunting grounds. “After the fires in the Gironde, we are not going to hunt in a place where there is no longer any natural habitat for wildlife. Or with the drought, we don’t hunt waterfowl”, continues Thierry Coste.

We don’t hunt as we want. In the most affected areas, there is no hunting and hunters, who show solidarity with each other, are invited to hunt in other areas to preserve wildlife. It’s common sense!

Thierry CosteLobbyist and representative of the National Federation of Hunters
Each year, in France, around one million hunters validate their license to be allowed to practice during the hunting season. (©L’Orne Hebdo)

The only municipalities that make decisions

The French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) also does not provide guidelines. “It’s not our role say whether or not we stop hunting, we are just a scientific support”, confirms organization, which also points to a “very different” situation and different ecosystems according to situations and regions”.

The prefectures are the only decision-makers able to give their position, but it is not within the competence of the OFB that it can provide territorial support to help make decisions.

French Office for Biodiversity (OFB)

On September 21, for example, the Administrative Court of Martinique decided to suspend the hunting of 12 species of birds. “The sampling quotas set by the contested decree are largely in excess of the permissible mortality limit without risk of harm to the conservation of the species”, underlines the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) in a press release.

On the other hand, from the side of animal defense organizations or those responsible for biodiversity, it is the alarm.

Associations ask to slow down

“This season we have to slow down, and it is something that has been requested for years. Nature does not regenerate”, laments Yves Verilhac, director of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), contacted by

“The situation is very critical this year,” he Jean-Louis Chuilon. The president of the Alliance of Opponents to Hunting (AOC) points to “the rivers of which we have more than the pebbles”, the “dry” ponds, the forests devastated by fires. “It is certain that animal populations would not survive,” he breathes.

And hunting shouldn’t help, in the short or long term: in fact, it’s just as much the animals that are affected this year as future generations. “Given the situation, not all the animals were able to make their usual reserves in spring and summer to face the winter and hibernate”, still opines Jean-Louis Chuilon.

Adult and juvenile animals will not have enough to hibernate. Some will die, others will have reproductive problems the following year. In similar situations observed previously, we noticed stunted growth, thinner and smaller animals.

Jean-Louis ChuilonPresident of the Fighting Opponents Alliance

And going hunting in other, less affected territories is anything but a solution. “Why hunt in a neighboring area, for example, when animals could recolonize the territory? It will slow down resupply capabilities, it just shifts the problem elsewhere,” continues the AOC president.

“Nature adapts and we hunters adapt”

If he recognizes that the situation in the summer of 2022 was exceptional from a climatic point of view, Thierry Coste assures that there is not so much reason to be worried, since animals continue to be a force of adaptation. ” They stay very mobile. Deer or wild boar, for example, are not really impacted, they leave the meadows to go to the forest”, says the FNC representative.

Look at migrants: they are not stuck in a specific place, they go where there is water, nature, shelter. Quails, for example, left earlier this year because they couldn’t find anything to eat. Nature adapts and we hunters adapt to it.

Thierry CosteLobbyist and representative of the National Federation of Hunters

“Between fires and drought, this is a difficult time for wildlife. [Mais] Ianimals are independent and they don’t need us to survive”, he adds to our newsroom The South Gironde Republican Bruno Trénit, vice president of the Landiras Hunting Society and vice president of this locality particularly affected by the fires this summer.

In the Landiras sector (Gironde), firefighters remain mobilized.  At the same time, legal proceedings are ongoing and gendarmes continue to carry out the investigation.
In the Landiras sector (Gironde), firefighters were very mobilized this summer due to the violent fires. (©The Republican)

A catastrophic domino effect

But for Julie Lasne, an ethnologist specializing in wild animal behavior and a member of the AOC, this animal adaptability is anything but trivial. And it reveals, once again, the need to give a truce to biodiversity.

“Faced with climate problems – resulting in drought, lack of food, to ensure their survival, some animals manage to abort or delay pregnancy, waiting for better days”, he explains. This is the case, for example, with the badger: the female can retain the male’s sperm and delay fertilization by a few months.

It’s simple: if the conditions for survival are not satisfied, there is no reproduction. If there is no reproduction, the species is threatened.

Julie LasneEthnologist specializing in the behavior of wild animals

The domino effect goes even further: “When we talk about drought, we talk about erosion, lack of water. Herbivores eat what is left, i.e. the young shoots. And this worsens erosion, delays regrowth and worsens the phenomenon. »

It is then the entire food chain that is affected, “because the lack of water leads to the lack of insects, batrachians, birds…”, enumerates the ethnologist. So many natural prey for predators that come to lose and rarefies the fauna. ” This is a catastrophic chain reaction”she slips.

“Real viewpoints of nature”

So, before the situation – already critical – gets worse, animal defense associations ask for a reduction or even suspension of hunting, at least for the time being. do a study on the state of biodiversity throughout the territory. “It’s a precautionary principle! When there is an event, a risk, a danger, we stop everything and analyze it. And there, 95% of the territory was declared on drought alert this summer”, recalls Jean-Louis Chuilon.

For their part, hunters defend their expertise in the field and the “common sense” of their hobby, mainly because many live in rural areas. “We don’t change places after we’ve destroyed everything and chased everything away, NoWe are connected to our territory. That’s why we have every interest in being true viewpoints-nature »illustrates Thierry Coste.

Finally, the lobbyist recalls the role of hunters during fires. In fact, many hunters have mobilized, as well as farmers, “to guide all firefighters and allow them to intervene more quickly, because we know the terrain and the territory”, he concludes.

“The hunters checked the basins for water and fed the animals. the hunters are nature lovers”underlines Bruno Trénit, deputy mayor of Landiras.

A role in wildlife regulation

For his part, Patrick Chaize, senator for Ain and rapporteur of an investigative mission dedicated to hunting and security presented to the Senate on Wednesday, September 14, highlights the “undeniable” role of hunters in the wildlife regulation. As the FNC points out, hunters thus have an obligation to “gather data on the state of game populations”.

“Hunting is not just a hobby, hunters have a public management service role,” she said. “Hunters have the right to hunt, but above all a duty to preserve the forest”adds Mélodie Miquel, president of the French Association for the Future of Hunting, to colleagues at South Gironde Republican.

The department is precisely one of the territories that frozen hunting at least until the end of the year after the summer fires. According to Frédéric Moras, interviewed by news from Bordeauxabout 30% of the cattle in the pine forest could have been decimated by the fires.

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