Poachers threat to safety

By Linda Clarke -
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Hunters jump farm fences to pursue prey for competition prizes.

An increase in hunting competitions seems to have worsened the situation for farmers.
An increase in hunting competitions seems to have worsened the situation for farmers.

Mid-Canterbury's high-country farmers are battling poachers shooting wild animals on private property.

Hunters are shooting from roadsides and jumping fences to make a kill. Some animals are just being left where they have fallen.

Mt Possession owner Donald Whyte said two houses on his property were within 500m of the road and he had been out at night telling spotlighters to move on.

He said poachers had always been a problem, but their numbers were growing, especially with the rise in the number of hunting competitions.

"Every time there is a hunting competition we have all sorts of problems with people jumping the fences."

Whyte, who farms deer, sheep and beef, is not against hunting and has good relationships with hunters who ask permission to come on to his property.

He said those who don't seek permission are putting him, his family and staff at risk.

He and other runholders in the area operate a Neighbourhood Watch group and take note of suspicious vehicles and people and report them to police.

"I don't have a problem allowing hunters on to my land, but the ones who don't ask are breaking the law. There are hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land all around here. Why don't they go there where it is legitimate?"

Ashburton police spokesman Mark Prendergast said police were also concerned about people going on to private land and shooting deer, pigs and other wild animals, or shooting across private land.

He said it was an offence to carry firearms or shoot on private land without the permission of the landowner, and it was offence to shoot across private land.

"I am a passionate hunter and fisherman myself and I take exception to people who sully the name of good people who do the right thing.

"These clowns who are poaching are breaking the rules and doing it at night spotlighting. They are ruining the reputation of legitimate hunters and putting people at risk."

He said the high country was not only used by hunters and anglers, but by mountain-bikers, artists, trampers and photographers.

"These illegal hunters are spotlighting at night and it puts everyone at risk."

Modern farms were busy places with work taking place after dark, he said.

"Public safety is a big point. There are thousands and thousands of hectares for hunters to ply their trade. They need to stay out of other people's farms."

Prendergast said those who spotted people hunting illegally should take note of vehicle registration plates and alert police.

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