Sunday, 5 January 2014

Skylark hunting in France

Skylark hunting in France - a tradition that should be confined to history books?

Most people are unaware that Skylarks are still legally hunted in some member countries of the EU and are equally unaware of some of the methods used in the name of tradition.

In France Skylarks can be shot anywhere in France during the open hunting season, normally set from around the middle to end of September until the end of February. In practice for most of France this may only amount to perhaps a few thousand in total although it’s unlikely that any serious reporting of numbers of kills takes place.

The main hunting using clap nets takes place in the Departemnets of Gironde, Landes,  Lot-et-Garonne and Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

This is from CABS.

Although shooting of Skylarks is permitted in France, as in other Mediterranean countries, four French Départements also allow trapping of the endangered species in nets. In the Bordeaux region of Aquitaine 10,000 trapping installations with gigantic trapping nets lies between the migrating birds and their winter destinations in the south. The dunes on the Atlantic coast and the harvested fields in the immediate hinterland are full of nets in autumn.

Live decoy birds are used as lures. The larks trapped for this purpose are tethered by their feet and are connected to the trapper who sits in a hut at the edge of the installation, by a long cord. When birds approach the nets the trapper pulls on the cord and the decoy bird starts to flutter its wings. At the same time the trapper mimics Skylark calls on a pipe and so lures a whole flock to their doom. When enough birds have landed the trapper releases a mechanism and the nets, several hundred square metres in area, clap together over the birds.

As if this wasn’t enough, two Départements also allow each trapper to set out up to 300 cage traps for larks!

More than 3,000 bird trappers are officially licensed to catch larks. The trapping quota varies in each Département - in Gironde for instance each trapper can catch 336 larks annually. Altogether one million Skylarks can legally be trapped in France every year; the true figure is probably a few hundred thousand in excess of this figure.

Below: Official figures for the EU countries that have derogated using “tradition” as a reason to allow hunting of Skylark.

Below we have school children on an arranged day outing being taught the wonders of trapping and killing Wood pigeon and Skylark. (Travail réalisé par les élèves de la classe de CM1 CM2 de l’Ecole de CASTETS en DORTHE dans le cadre du projet sur le patrimoine cyclo.)

Tying a skylark SOURCE

Needless to say this is only part of the picture. There are large numbers of Finches and Ortolan Bunting illegally trapped and killed in south west France with impunity mainly to supply an elite market but more of that another time.

Although the Skylark has a huge range and benefits from having a large population base it has been in decline now for many years and most would conclude that habitat loss is the root cause. On the basis that they are in decline should be good enough reason to call an end to killing this tiny bird just because it’s deemed to be traditional.