County addresses duck hunting complaints

County addresses duck hunting complaints
Waterfowl, including several species of ducks, frequent the ponds at Perico Preserve. - Cindy Lane | Sun

PERICO ISLAND – Manatee County officials are considering establishing a “no motorboating” zone in Perico Bayou to address complaints from neighboring residents about duck hunting near Perico Preserve.

The move would further protect seagrasses from prop scarring while discouraging duck hunters from taking motorized boats into the bayou, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county’s Parks and Natural Resources Department, told county commissioners on Jan. 29.

Residents bordering Perico Preserve on Perico Bayou and Neal Preserve on the Intracoastal Waterway are among those who have recently complained to commissioners that shotgun blasts wake them at dawn, upset people who have seen dead ducks fall from the sky and disturb their quiet enjoyment of sunsets.

At Perico Preserve, built to attract birds, the boardwalks end at the bayou where hunters are hunting, Hunsicker said, placing hunters and preserve visitors too close to each other.

“It’s important for local governments to set limits,” he told commissioners.

“Any person who recreationally discharges a firearm outdoors, including target shooting, in an area that the person knows or reasonably should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.” – Florida Statute §790.15 (4)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) allows hunters in or on state waters to shoot ducks on the wing in season with the appropriate equipment and training.

Although the FWC has the sole authority to regulate the state’s wildlife, Florida law allows local governments to regulate boating activity on navigable waterways subject to FWC approval, Manatee County Attorney Mitchell Palmer told commissioners, citing a Jan. 18 memo by Assistant County Attorney Anne Morris.

Restricting motorized vessels would still allow johnboats, kayaks, canoes and rowboats in Perico Bayou, Hunsicker said, adding that the plan requires a public hearing.

Beyond preserves

The hunting issue is not restricted to west Bradenton’s preserves.

The bird life in Doug Richards’ neighborhood near Wild Oak Bay on Sarasota Bay “is almost like the Serengeti,” he told commissioners.

“It’s just a beautiful, beautiful scene” until duck hunters appear, he said.

“We need a more appropriate way to balance the interests,” like limiting hunting to within a “respectable” distance of homes, he suggested.

No hunters addressed commissioners at the meeting.

“We share the residents’ concerns,” Hunsicker said. “Unfortunately, our solutions available to us at Perico are not necessarily available to the Sarasota Bay shore.”

The City of Bradenton has an ordinance in effect prohibiting the discharge of firearms in the city limits, which gives some protection to city residents, he said.

It is a misdemeanor under Florida Statute §790.15 to discharge a firearm in the vicinity of or over residentially zoned property, defined as one dwelling per acre or more, Palmer said, adding that residents should report the activity to law enforcement.

“There is no hunting allowed in Florida state parks,” Hunsicker said, suggesting that the county preserves of Perico, Neal and Robinson “should be treated in the same fashion.”

Duck hunting season ended on Jan. 27; hunting season for wood ducks resumes on Sept. 22.

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