The shooting of 11 farm goats on a property north of Napier has raised fears that a new spate of poaching in Hawke's Bay could lead to people also being shot.
The latest shooting happened over the weekend near Tangoio, an area which still holds memories of a farmer being shot dead when confronting poachers.
* Warning, a distressing image of the shooting appears below
Police rural communities officer Senior Constable Pete Gimblett says he constantly has three or four illegal hunting or poaching files on his desk, and several areas are affected.
That includes the Makahu area where farmer Jack Nicholas was shot dead at his remote homestead gate on a frosty morning in 2004 – a murder also thought to be linked to poaching.
The latest shooting, another trauma on top of the Tangoio forest fire in January and amid the drought and Covid-19 crises, happened between late afternoon on Friday and daybreak on Saturday.
Eleven animals in a paddock close to Tangoio Settlement Rd were struck by shots from a .22 weapon apparently fired from the road.
Despite relative proximity to their home, farmers Mark and Jenny Fowden heard nothing, and discovered the horror only when Jenny went to move some cows in the morning.
She wondered why the domesticated mainly milking-nanny boer goats hadn't come running in their normal playful way and went to find them.
She found eight dead, one had to be euthanised, and on Wednesday the family was still nursing two, worried that one of them might not survive.
"One should be okay, the other's not looking too happy," she said.
Four other goats evaded the rampage, a miracle Jenny believes, given the goats' natural tendency to look out for each other and curiosity in keeping check on what's going on.
Wild goats would have run off, she says.
"The terrible thing is they left them dying," she said.
There had been no attempt to butcher the goats.
While the Tangoio area had its tragic history, she said they'd had no trouble with poachers in about 10 years.
The property is about 4.5km from State Highway 2 and on the main route to Waipatiki. Jenny said she and her husband thought the goats would be fine close to the road, especially during the lockdown, but then with level 3, and despite still tight restrictions, "everyone started heading for the beach".
Gimblett said a "significant amount" of his work involves complaints of illegal hunting or poaching, which usually have the dangerous mix of theft and firearms, with obvious risks of human tragedy.
"The goats were just 40 metres from the road," he said.
Animals being shot illegally also include deer, cattle and sheep, from shootings seemingly as meaningless as at the weekend (for no apparent gain), to those targeting the meat or pelts.
Depending on circumstances, offences are punishable under both the Wild Animal Control Act or the Crimes Act.
Anyone with information which may relate to the shooting of the goats or other similar offending should contact police immediately.