More Facts Regarding Ontario’s Dove Hunting Season
An Assessment on the Feasibility of Reinstatement of a Mourning Dove Hunting Season in Ontario
Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region
17 September 2011
Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are one of the most abundant and widely distributed birds in North America. Fall population estimates for the United States (U.S.) alone range from 350 to 475 million birds (Dunks et al. 1982, Otis et al. 2008). This species breeds from southern Canada throughout the U.S., all Caribbean Islands and into Mexico. Mourning Doves will winter throughout much of the breeding range, but the majority of birds migrate to winter in the southern U.S., Mexico and further south into some areas of Central America. Although at the northern part of their range, Mourning Doves are a common bird of rural and urban areas throughout most of southern Canada.
The Mourning Dove is listed as a migratory game bird under the Migratory Birds Convention and is thus subject to federal protection and regulation in both Canada and the U.S. Environment Canada is the federal agency with the responsibility to ensure conservation and management of migratory birds, including Mourning Dove, in Canada. In the U.S., protection, conservation, and management of migratory birds is the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Mourning Doves are one of the most popular and heavily harvested North American game birds, particularly in the U.S. where they are hunted in 40 of 50 states. In the U.S., approximately 1 million hunters annually harvest about 15 to 20 million of these birds, typically representing 5% to 10% of the estimated fall population (Otis et al. 2008). Data from the 2010/11 hunting season shows that an estimated 960,000 hunters harvested 17.2 million doves across the Eastern (EMU), Central (CMU) and Western (WMU) dove Management Units in the U.S. (Seamans et al. 2011). Mourning Doves are also harvested in Mexico and Central America, but no reliable harvest estimates are available for those areas (Otis et al. 2008).
Hunting Mourning Doves is much less common and harvest is much lower in Canada than in the U.S. To date, only two provinces have instated dove hunting seasons, British Columbia and Ontario. British Columbia is currently the only province with an annual Mourning Dove hunting season which was instated in 1960. In recent years, hunter numbers and harvest have declined with fewer than 100 hunters estimated to take part 2
in the harvest and the estimated number of doves harvested as low as 200 per year (Environment Canada, National Harvest Survey data).
Ontario was the first province to instate a Mourning Dove hunting season in 1955. Purportedly, only a small number of birds (~ 300) were harvested during the 1955 season (Anonymous 1956 in Reeves 1993). At that time there likely was low interest and low hunter participation because Mourning Doves were much less abundant and less widespread throughout the province than at the present time. The Mourning Dove hunt was in effect for only the 1955 season in Ontario season, and doves have not been hunted in the province since that time. However, over the past several years hunters have become increasingly interested in reinstatement of a Mourning Dove season in Ontario.
Over the past 5 years, the Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region (CWS – ON) has received requests from hunting organizations and individual hunters (Appendix 1) to reinstate an annual fall Mourning Dove hunt in the province. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), one of the largest organizations representing Ontario hunters’ interests, has requested and financed independent studies (conducted by Long Point Waterfowl) evaluating Mourning Dove population dynamics and public opinion of instating a hunting season in the province (Barney et al. 2007). These studies highlight that Mourning Doves have undergone considerable increases in both population size (winter) and breeding distribution throughout the province over the last three decades and are hunted sustainably in adjacent U.S. states which have comparable abundance indices to Ontario. Further, results from a public opinion poll showed that most Ontario residents questioned in 2006 would support a hunting season (58% in favor, 25% neutral and 17% opposed) if they could be harvested sustainably (Barney et al. 2007). The OFAH also draws attention to the economic benefits and increased hunting opportunity for Ontario residents that would result from having a dove hunting season.
Get out with your kids and friends and enjoy some time in the field,
Dove hunting is challenging and a great way to enjoy October day