A pet miniature horse found shot on the West Coast was probably mistaken by spotlighters for a deer, police said.

The family pet was in a paddock near Lake Kaniere, in the upper Arahura Valley.

Sergeant Russell Glue, of Hokitika police, said the owners heard a gunshot some time during the early hours of last Thursday morning, but did not discover the horse was missing for a few days. It was found with a gunshot wound and had to be put down.

"I hope that they have mistaken the horse for a deer and it was accidental, but still, that is no excuse and it is not good enough."

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Mr Glue said there had been an issue with spotlighting in the Milltown area recently.

"Hunters, obviously need to be reminded that shooting from the road, spotlights or poaching of any kind are all illegal offences and carry various punishments against the Crimes Act, Arms Act and others, and will not be tolerated.

"Rest assured, anyone caught will be dealt with swiftly and via the court system."

- The Greymouth Star