A local nature lover was dismayed to discover nearly 40 rifle shells and one unspent round during a recent visit to Tiny Marsh.
Barb McGugan-Crawford, of Elmvale, collected the shells from an area near the marsh’s boardwalk lookout tower and shared them on the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists’ Facebook page.
“This is in an area where there shouldn't be any shooting, lots of human traffic,” McGugan-Crawford said.
But what might come as a surprise to some visitors is the fact hunting is allowed at this particular beloved wildlife area throughout the year.
“It's a provincial wildlife area so all forms of hunting are permitted,” said Bob Codd, a board member of the MTM Conservation Association, the group responsible for managing the Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area as well as Matchedash Bay and Marl Lake.
“One of the hunter members of the board likes to remind me that hunting can and does occur here 365 days a year within provincial and in the case of waterfowl, federal regulations.”
But while Codd is a non-hunter and active member of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists, he said hunters regularly go after rabbits and other species at the marsh, including blackbirds, which, despite being a native species, have no protection under the law.
“I also don't know if the shells are recent or leftovers from last autumn,” Codd said, adding he suspects the latter.
“It's (one) of my pet peeves that hunters feel free to litter and don't pick up after themselves. My wife and a friend and I collected whatever shells we could find two years ago, enough to fill a plastic shopping bag.”
And while some might question why hunting is allowed at Tiny Marsh, Codd noted that the MTM Conservation Association gets the majority of its funding through the sale of hunting permits and the proceeds of an organized pheasant hunt.
“Large numbers of these non-native birds (pheasants) are released every fall and there is a waiting list for hunters who want to kill them,” Codd said. “That's where I believe the gun shells are coming from.
Codd said there is “an awful lot of shooting” in Tiny Marsh from September to the end of the year.
“The bottom line for us (Codd and his wife) is we simply won't go to Tiny Marsh once waterfowl and pheasant hunting begins,” Codd said. “It's not that we feel unsafe, but rather there isn't much wildlife to be seen as the hunting activity drives most things into hiding.
“The noise is rather unpleasant too.”
Naturalist and MidlandToday columnist David Hawke added: "These are .22 casings.. 22 cartridges are sold 50 to a box, so it looks like someone was doing some 'target shooting.' Probably with a semi-automatic rifle as all the casing are somewhat together.
"Copeland Forest and many of the Simcoe County Tracts that permit hunting have as part of their 'hunting allowed' signage that 'target shooting' is not allowed. This thwarts the yahoos who want to go out for an hour of blasting."