Duck hunting spreads to Neal Preserve

mottled ducks
Mottled ducks at Neal Preserve - Cindy Lane | Sun

PERICO ISLAND – Perico Preserve, a bird sanctuary, is not the only county preserve where duck hunters are shooting easy prey.

Since duck hunting season resumed on Dec. 8, residents bordering nearby Neal Preserve say they are hearing gunshots too, and they want law enforcement and local government officials to take notice and act.

On opening day, “They were out in Spoonbill Bay again blasting away,” Perico Bay Club resident Mark Lorenze said. “What they don’t take into consideration is the disruption of hundreds of unit owners.”

While hunting is not allowed in the preserves, duck hunters can legally shoot birds on the wing while standing or boating in state waters if they are properly licensed, trained and armed with the right weapon and ammunition, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Timothy Hinds.

The Thanksgiving week hunting season left Perico Preserve visitors and nearby residents shaken to hear gunshots near the dense residential neighborhood of Perico Island condos.

Resident Elsbeth Frischmann said that she heard shots morning and evening that week.

Since the season reopened, “It’s mostly on the weekends, early in the morning, around sunrise,” said a neighbor who did not want to be named, adding that a check of the neighborhood security camera has not yet identified a hunter.

Red shows where gunshots have been heard during duck hunting season at Perico Preserve and Neal Preserve this fall.

Across Manatee Avenue (SR 64) and to the west, “Hunters bang away on the small bay, called Spoonbill Bay on some maps, directly adjacent to us on the west side between our units and the Neal Preserve,” said Lorenze, chair of the security department at Perico Bay Club. “When the hunters’ guns begin firing, my phone rings off the hook.”

Part of Perico Island is in Bradenton, which has an ordinance against discharging a firearm within city limits, according to Bradenton Police Department Capt. Brian Thiers.

Other parts of Perico Island fall under the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction. Thiers recommends that residents hearing gunfire call 911, whose dispatchers can decide which agency should respond.

County environmental officials who oversee the preserves have no law enforcement powers, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, asking that hunters use Duette Preserve, a county preserve that allows hunting in less-populated east Manatee County.

The current duck hunting season lasts until Sunday, Jan. 27, according to the FWC.

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