IN THE NEWS: Duck hunt protester shot in the face

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IN THE NEWS: On MAR 20, 2011

THE opening of duck shooting season was marred yesterday when a wildlife rescue volunteer was shot in the face at Lake Buloke near the town of Donald.

Coalition Against Duck Shooting campaign director Laurie Levy said the 43-year-old female volunteer was struck by shotgun pellets about 9am after they ricocheted off the water.

The volunteer, Julie Symons, was taken by ambulance to Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham and discharged in the afternoon.

''She was in a state of shock. She was shot in the face. Thankfully it wasn't the eyes,'' said Mr Levy. ''She also lost a tooth.

''Apparently a 14-year-old shooter fired at a bird on the water and we believe the bullets ricocheted off the water into Julie's face.''

In another incident, a man duck shooting at Cohuna, north of Melbourne, suffered severe injuries to his hand, in particular his thumb, after his gun exploded. He was flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

A team of 130 from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and Victoria Police patrolled wetlands across Victoria to ensure the start to the season was orderly.

Hunters were issued with 23 infringements and protesters were issued with 54 infringements for illegally entering wetlands during prohibited periods, the DSE said.

Seven hunters will be charged on summons to appear in court.

Mr Levy said between 1500 and 2000 shooters and 150 volunteers were at Lake Buloke.

''There have been quite a few wounded birds brought out protected species have been brought in but we don't know how many at the moment,'' Mr Levy said.

Rod Drew, chief executive of shooting association Field and Game, said the incident was terrible. ''It was one of those things that should never have happened,'' he said. ''While we respect the right of people to protest, it is a very bad mix to have these people in a situation where there's firearms.''

Mr Drew said shoot rules stipulated that Ms Symons was not supposed to be in the water until after 10am. Mr Drew said about 2000 hunters were at Lake Buloke and, though that number was down on previous years, it was probably because hunters had flocked to other wetlands that had flourished in the past year.

The DSE announced in January that the 2011 duck hunting season would return to a full 12 weeks following strong rains over 2010 that had improved the habitat for game bird populations.

Victorian Greens MP Sue Pennicuik was protesting against the hunt at Lake Buloke.

She criticised the timing of the hunt in the middle of the duck breeding season.

''Ducks haven't been able to breed for a decade because of drought,'' Ms Pennicuik said. ''It's barbaric, it's cruel, it's unnecessary. I just totally can't believe we, as a society, think this is a good idea, to allow people with guns to come out here and shoot animals - for fun.''

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