Lives at risk from hunters

Peoples lives are being put at risk by the ''stupidity and recklessness'' of hunters, and in some cases poachers, police say.

Incidents in recent weeks have frightened people in rural areas. A landowner, who was irrigating at night, took cover in a ditch after a person shooting rabbits from the roadside fired into the paddock he was working in.

In another incident, an employed night shooter was spotlighted by a poacher.

This week, a Waikerikeri Valley couple expressed concern for their young sons' lives after shots were fired near the family home. The couple, who wish to remain anonymous for their own safety, are new to the area and say, though they are no strangers to rural life, they think people shooting close to their house and from a moving vehicle are being reckless.

The hunters have to go through a gate about 50m from the couple's house to get to the area where they have permission to shoot.

Often, as they are approaching or leaving the gate, the hunters shoot from their moving quad bikes. While sometimes they shoot away from the couple's house, at other times they shoot across their section towards a paddock on the other side.

This week, as their sons, aged 4 and 9, went outside to welcome their mother home about 9pm, a shot was fired from a neighbouring paddock. The couple assume the shot was directed at a flock of birds near their house and in the direction of their sons.

''And that was it for me ... They're just reckless.''

The couple have since heard from other valley residents who have experienced similar incidents.

Detective Sergeant Liz Williams, of Alexandra, said such incidents had been ongoing and seemed to be becoming more common, though that could be because they were being reported more often.

''The offenders who are stopped for shooting rabbits from the roadside are often known members of your communities who see no harm in their actions ... despite the fact the person standing in their paddock is out of torch view but well within the bullet's range,'' she said.

''Their stupidity and recklessness often defies belief.''

Three young fallow deer were shot in a roadside paddock in Galloway this week. A nearby landowner reported hearing shots about 10.30pm and the following morning, evidence of gutted deer was found.

''The thief had shot them from the roadside then dragged the carcasses over the fence to gut them,'' Det Sgt Williams said.

Another issue facing farmers was large-scale stock thefts, she said.

Two recent sheep thefts in Central Otago cost the farmers concerned more than $100,000.

''This is a massive financial blow to those targeted, and an incredibly self-absorbed action by some greedy individual,'' Det Sgt Williams said.

In November, eight poachers were trespassed from 96 farms in the wider Central Otago area under an anti-poaching scheme.


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