Ontario’s new cormorant hunting season

Facts about Ontario’s cormorants and the new Ontario cormorant hunting season

  • The Ontario government’s new hunting season allows individuals with a small game license and Ontario Outdoors card to kill up to 15 cormorants per day from September 15th to December 31st.
  • The legal take for Ontario’s estimated 197,000 small game hunting license holders totals more than 316 million cormorants, even though there are only an estimated 143,000 cormorants in Ontario. The government has not provided their desired population number, so no one knows how many cormorants they think should be allowed to live in Ontario.
  • The presence of cormorants benefits other colonial water birds, such as herons, egrets and, most recently, pelicans, all of which are stable or growing where cormorants are found.
  • The mass killing of cormorants will not be beneficial. In fact, the process of killing them will force other bird species to vacate the colony sites they share.
  • There is no way to kill cormorants humanely. Even controlled, organized culls with expert shooters have resulted in significant numbers of injured and crippled birds being left to die of their wounds or to starve to death, including nestlings.
  • Cormorants are beneficial because their diet consists of very large numbers of primarily invasive fish, such as alewives and round gobies, as well as other non-commercial, non-forage species.
  • The mass killing of cormorants will damage the environment and disrupt natural ecosystem processes of succession.
  • The return of cormorants, a native wildlife species, to the Great Lakes Basin is part of a natural process and an ecological success story.
  • Cormorants are not overabundant in the Great Lakes. In fact, their numbers are modest, now stabilized and are dropping in many areas.
  • Changes in the composition of vegetation in and around bird colonies are a sign of vibrant, dynamic natural ecosystem processes. Cormorants do not damage the environments in which they live. Instead, like many other keystone animals, they are eco-engineers that create habitat and conditions for other species.
  • The number of trees that die in colonial waterbird colonies across the province is miniscule and wouldn’t even equal the number of trees in a single modestly-sized woodlot.
  • Only a small number of islands (less than 3%) and peninsula sites are available for cormorants and other colonial waterbirds to nest on. That makes cormorants very vulnerable. Most small colonies could be wiped out in a few days by just one hunter under the new hunting season rules.
  • The Ontario cormorant hunting season is a political response to anecdotes, unsubstantiated claims and complaints by extreme members of the fishing and hunting communities.
  • The proposed designation of cormorants as game animals, along with a non-utilization exemption that allows the carcasses to rot should be an affront to every hunter who believes in sportsmanship, fair chase and ethics.