Poachers create night shooting danger


POLICE say someone could get hurt if an outbreak of ‘‘extremely unsafe’’ poaching continues in South Otago.

Police have been investigating illegal hunting in rural communities and making arrests.

Senior Sergeant Chris Wakelin, of Balclutha, said poaching had been an ongoing focus, following landowners’ complaints of late›night gunfire and dubiously parked vehicles in isolated locations.

Police have investigated and apprehended people involved in ‘‘suspicious activity’’.

Early last month, police received a report of gunshots near Owaka before dawn, and found three deer poachers ‘‘red›handed’’ on private property with a deer they had killed.

Rifles, ammunition and other equipment were confiscated and the poachers were charged with various firearms offences.

Senior Constable Murray Hewitson, of Owaka, said there was often a spike of dangerous and irresponsible hunting activity around the roar — the March›April rutting season when deer are less cautious than other times.

Most instances of poaching involved night›time trespassing on private property and shooting from public and forestry roadsides.

Incidents had been reported around the Lawrence area and the Catlins.

Snr Const Hewitson said poachers were putting lives at risk.

‘‘It’s extremely unsafe and someone will end up getting hurt,’’ he said.

‘‘There are plenty of hunting opportunities available through the legal permit and block ballot systems, and farmers often have a problem with deer, so if people want to hunt on private property they should just ask permission.’’

Charges related to unlawful hunting and the Wild Animal Control Act are strict, beginning with seizure of equipment including vehicles, loss of the firearms licence, fines of up to $100,000 and a two year prison sentence.

Stalkers looking for game in the same area without knowledge of each other were in danger of becoming each other’s targets, police said.

It was impossible to safely identify targets and check firing zones when shooting under the cover of darkness.