Don’t Shoot, Birdmen Say

Hunters may have to put away their guns
The National Academy of Science recommends placing a ban on spring fowling, especially shooting water birds. They warn that shooting water fowl might result in an outbreak of H5N1 virus. Birdmen provided their explanation at a meeting of the Interdepartmental Coordinating Council for prevention of arrival and spreading of bird flu in Belarus.

— Bird flu is not to be trifled with. We have no virus in Belarus now, but it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it, the director of the zoology institute of the National Academy of Science, Mikhail Nikiforov, says. — It is often hard even for a good shooter to kill a woodcock or a duck with one shot. A wounded bird may be killed by crows and the virus will be spread all over the country. There is a worse scenario: the game will appear on the table, and the whole family of the hunter may be in danger. Why take risks? The ban is a good measure to prevent troubles.

Bird scientists have a good reason to worry: birds normally start getting back to Belarus in early March, and many of them are coming from wintering grounds in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria, where swans and duck died from H5N1. Hundreds of thousands of birds fly over Belarus, and most of them are transit passengers. Sick birds are unlikely to reach Belarus, but some of them might be strong enough.

Of course, hunters are unhappy about the ban, but they understand the concerns of scientists. “We realize that the situation is very serious and we have to admit that birdmen are right,” the chair of the Belarusian society of hunters and fishermen, Igor Surakov, says. “I wish the rule did not apply to blackcock and wood grouse. Besides, foreigners often visit Belarus to hunt these birds, and currency transfers to the budget are considerable.”
Hunters needn’t worry: blackcock and wood grouse are not water birds, and the ban will not apply to them.
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