The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in Ireland has confirmed that the open season for the shooting of certain wild birds in the country will be allowed to continue into February.

The Wildlife (Wild Birds) (Open Seasons) (Amendment) Order 2011 extends the time period for the shooting in Ireland of cock pheasant and woodpigeon only up to and including 28 February. The last day of the season for both birds in Ireland is normally 1 February, though woodpigeon can also be hunted for crop protection until later in the year.

The minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., said: ?We are allowing certain game bird hunting to go ahead this February. I urge all hunters to respect this extension and to ensure that there is no undue disturbance to other species by taking care to restrict their shooting activity to agricultural areas and away from key habitats where birds are vulnerable to disturbance such as wetlands and estuaries.?

The Department said that it consulted with Birdwatch Ireland and various shooting organisations in making the decision. It also stressed that the shooting of cock pheasant and woodpigeon only would be allowed as ?these birds are not considered to be threatened from a conservation perspective.?

The government?s announcement follows some days of confusion. The website of the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) states that the season has been extended ?following a meeting between NARGC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 13 January.? However, Shooting Times can confirm that the minister did not sign the Statutory Instrument in order to make the extension legal until 29 January.