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Police note an escalation of illegal hunting in Wairarapa

Wairarapa police have noted an observable increase in illegal hunting in the region in recent years and are warning hunters engaged in such activity that they face prison time, hefty fines, and the loss of firearms licences if they’re caught.

On Wednesday, the Wellington District Police posted photos of three men on social media who they wanted to speak to in relation to hunting activity in the region.

The men have since been identified and, while charges have not been laid at this stage, Sergeant Steve Cameron said this is only one of the many incidents that Wairarapa police have investigated in recent years.

Photographs of the three men had previously been posted on social media on March 16, after a landowner noted they had been twice spotted in a forest on private property 10 minutes from Masterton.

Police believe that the growth of the local forestry sector and a booming local deer population are among the reasons behind an escalation in illegal hunting.

Cameron said his rural team investigates a “number of hunting incidents every year, especially when landowners’ complain of late-night gunfire and suspicious vehicles parked in isolated locations”.

It is believed there is often a spike in illegal hunting activity during ‘the roar’ – the mating season from late March through April when stags are most vocal in order to attract hinds and are often less cautious as a result.

“With the roar in full swing, hunters need permission from the landowner when they are intending to hunt on private land,” Cameron said.

“Landowners are encouraged to think about the security around their property.”

Wairarapa police prosecute a number of hunters every year for illegal hunting and “most of these hunters also face losing their firearms licence”.

Three men are currently going through the courts facing a raft of poaching-related charges after shooting a beloved family pet in Hinakura in March 2023.

Residents at the Hinakura property previously told the Times-Age that they woke to gunshots in the early hours of the morning and found their hand-raised deer maimed in their front paddock.

The 10-year-old hind had been shot multiple times and had to be put down by its owners.

Later that morning, Armed police officers later apprehended a vehicle travelling at speed near Parkvale.

The original charges against the poachers included unlawful hunting, cruelty to animals, entering agricultural land with intent, and unlawfully carrying and discharging firearms.

The offence of illegal hunting carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $100,000 fine in New Zealand.

In 2019, three men were found guilty of poaching a $11,500 trophy stag from a Masterton game reserve and were each ordered to complete 50 hours community service and pay $2000 in reparations.

In 2020, police charged two men with illegal hunting after they were photographed while poaching on land near Tinui.

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