Hunting inquiry – RSPCA makes the case for saving Stubble Quail

Published on 9 May 2023

RSPCA Victoria has publicly released its submission to the Select Committee on Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements after submissions to the inquiry closed last night.

Policy and Advocacy Manager at RSPCA Victoria, Ms Mhairi Roberts believes the submission makes a strong case for banning both duck and quail hunting in Victoria.

“While many people understand the issues regarding ducks, quails often don’t receive the same attention. Similar to ducks, the evidence very clearly supports banning Stubble Quail hunting. There are multiple concerns from an animal welfare perspective – the inevitable suffering as a result of wounding, the use of lead ammunition and the impact this has on other animals and the ecosystem and the potential to push the critical endangered Plains Wanderer to extinction,” said Ms Roberts.

“When quail are shot with lead ammunition by hunters, deep punctures from gunshot wounds can result in damage to internal organs without causing immediate death of the bird. Birds that survive gunshots can endure prolonged, painful deaths. Injured birds become immediately more susceptible to predators as they may not be able to move or fly as a result of embedded shot or fragments.

“Unfortunately, there are no Australian studies that tell us what the wounding rate of Stubble Quail during quail hunting season is, but studies carried out on the Northern Bobwhite Quail (similar in size, colour and share a preferred habit) found 33% of the total kill were crippled.

“Utilising the total kill crippling rate from the more recent study, and the average Victorian Stubble quail harvest rate of 175,0001, means that approximately another 57,000 quail are wounded and not killed outright each year,” she said. Quail hunters are not required to undergo species identification testing, which raises significant concern for several endangered species that look very similar.

Figure 1
Left: Stubble Quail © Les George 2022 – birdlifephotography.org.au
Right: Plains-wanderer © Ian Wilson 2023 – birdlifephotography.org.au

The critically endangered Plains Wanderer looks very similar to the Stubble Quail. There are very few features setting apart these species, and yet, the Plains Wanderer is near the brink of extinction. It is believed there may be fewer than 1,000 left in the wild2

“When quail are shot and not retrieved, or ducks are illegally shot with lead, scavenging wildlife feeding off carcasses risk ingesting lead bullets or fragments. Fragments are often too small for animals to detect or avoid when they come across wounded or dead prey, and if not eliminated from them, may remain in their stomachs for days or weeks.

“In addition to ingesting shot, it is possible that environmental lead exposure from missed shots contaminating the waterways and soil could be contributing to wildlife mortality by impeding the intricate cognitive processes and social behaviours essential for survival and reproductive success,” said Ms Roberts.

RSPCA Victoria has provided the Select Committee with 12 recommendations in regard to duck and quail hunting. The key recommendations that relate to quail are below.

RSPCA Victoria recommendation 3:

Based on the likely wounding rate of quail, RSPCA Victoria believes quail hunting should be banned due to the inevitable suffering of birds.

RSPCA Victoria recommendation 8:

Quail hunting must be banned based on the decline in Stubble Quail numbers in Victoria and the additional pressures from hunting during breeding season and habitat loss.

RSPCA Victoria recommendation 10:

Due to the direct and indirect impacts of lead ammunition on native animals and the environment, and the continued use of lead shot illegally by duck hunters, duck and quail hunting should be banned.

For the full list of recommendations, visit the RSPCA Victoria website.

 

1https://www.gma.vic.gov.au/hunting/quail Accessed 17 April 2023

2http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/22693049. Accessed 24 April 2023.

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