Police ‘failing to tackle illegal deer hunting’

Police ‘failing to tackle illegal deer hunting’

A wildlife group has said it has “zero confidence” in the police taking action against illegal hunting after a mature stag was shot and killed.

The deer, known as an imperial due to the number of its antler points, was shot at Bicknoller Quarry on Thursday.

Bobbie Armstrong from Somerset Wildlife Crime said: “Sadly, the police in Somerset seem to be inclined to see us as the problem.”

Avon and Somerset Police says it takes wildlife crime allegations seriously.

Rural Affairs Unit Sgt Andy Murphy said: “We’re listening to the concerns raised by wildlife organisations and can categorically reassure them that we’ll always police without fear or favour.

“The Rural Affairs Unit and our neighbourhood policing teams work closely with rural and wildlife stakeholders across the Avon and Somerset area.”

He said the complaint about the shooting had been received and was being investigated.

But Somerset Wildlife Crime claimed police officers have a “poor knowledge” of the law, and are biased in favour of hunt groups.

Ms Armstrong says officers have previously told her they “had more important things to do”.

“Stags are regularly and consistently being hunted and killed on the Quantock Hills, we will say illegally because we don’t see them [hunters] adhering to any exemptions,” added Ms Armstrong.

The exemptions include killing an animal to alleviate suffering.

‘Pistols and shotguns’

Ms Armstrong also said she had safety concerns.

“The Quantock Staghounds… carry pistols, they carry short-barrel shotguns, they are shooting on open public access National Trust land.

“It’s quite simple. Take it seriously before there is a major incident, before somebody is hurt.”

She added that as many of the shoots on the Quantock Hills were on National Trust land, the charity was failing to enforce its rights as a landowner.

A National Trust spokeswoman said: “We don’t believe the [shooting] incident happened on our land. Therefore it is not up to us to investigate.

“We were saddened to hear about the alleged stag shooting incident which happened last week. Hunting deer and stags with packs of dogs has been illegal since 2004.”

The charity has asked anyone who sees illegal hunting activity to report it to the police.

Wildlife campaigners say three healthy stags have been killed on the Quantocks since the hunting season began in August.

The BBC has approached the Quantock Staghounds for comment.

This article was first published by BBC News on 23 October 2020. Lead Image: Wildlife campaigners are concerned healthy stags are being shot and killed – Image: EPA.

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