At Shoreline exists "one of the few places in the west where you have hunting next to a very large urban area," said Bob Power, president of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, which advocates for the preservation of birds and their habitat.
"Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the duck hunting in the world happens where we don't see it, where we don't hear it," Power said.
Mountain View resident Luis Villablanca, an avid photographer of birds in the Shoreline area, expressed mixed feelings about it. He recalled coming across "a super rare bird, a yellow-billed loon" and "on other side of the marsh I could see hunters and they were shooting right there. It's just unsettling, hearing shots coming not far from you." But he acknowledged that hunting fees pay significantly toward habitat preservation.
Officials with the Don Edwards National Wildlife refuge say the trail is safe, as it is 300 feet from the blinds that hunters must shoot from, and shotgun pellets can only travel about 100 feet.
The season runs every winter beginning in November in the salt ponds east of Stevens Creek through Alviso. It usually occurs in early morning and is only allowed on Wednesday, Saturdays and Sundays from duck blind structures in the middle of salt ponds accessible by boat. Hunters go through locked gates, driving on a portion of the Steven's Creek trail from the end of Crittenden Lane. They are allowed to shoot only certain types of ducks, and a limited number of them. Nearly 2,000 ducks were reportedly taken by almost 1,500 hunters last year in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
While the hunt may ruffle a few feathers among walkers and bikers, council members Mike Kasperzak and Ronit Bryant say they have not had any complaints about the duck hunting that has gone on for years in the salt ponds in the wetlands of Moffett Field. And that's despite the opening of the Bay Trail through the area last year, connecting Mountain View's Shoreline Park and Sunnyvale.
In 2005 the City Council had voted to restrict hunters' access to those salt ponds via the Steven's Creek trail. Late council member Rosemary Stasek said park users were "fundamentally uncomfortable" with people carrying guns on the trail, while hunting advocates said they were "essentially" wildlife preservationists. The council's request was eventually rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Kasperzak, who was on the council at the time, said he hadn't heard from anyone about the issue since.
Power confirmed that hunting license fees do fund preservation efforts.
"The fees that are generated (by duck stamps on hunting licenses) have done more for habitat and habitat restoration and duck waterfowl populations as a whole than anything else in the history of North America," Power said.
He added that he has not heard of the hunter's causing any problems for local bird populations, including rare birds like the clapper rail.
"There are plenty of members of Audubon who are hunters," Power said. "There are plenty of members who are not who cringe when they see the daily take coming out of the salt ponds."
More information, including maps and instructions for hunters, can be found at fws.gov/desfbay.