Two illegal hunters who shone a spotlight on horrified Conservation Department workers at a public reserve have been convicted.
The men appeared in the Gore District Court yesterday in relation to the spotlighting incident, which gained national media attention in November.
Shannon James Ferris, 24, farmer, of Invercargill, was convicted of unlawful hunting at Piano Flat on November 17 and 21 and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Daniel Cyril Peterson, 25, builder, of Gore, was convicted of unlawful hunting at Piano Flat on November 17.
Judge Michael Turner said the offending was serious and arrogant, with the two men seemingly unconcerned about other people in the area.
He remanded them until November 5 for sentencing.
The police summary of facts says neither of the men had a permit to hunt in the DOC area, where it is illegal to hunt after dark and to use spotlights to shoot wild deer in the area.
The two men were in a 4WD vehicle on Piano Flat Rd, which runs through the native bush reserve, hunting possums with a spotlight.
About 2.20am they returned to the main camping ground area where they shone their spotlight at the DOC rangers, who were wearing headlamps to sort their gear at the back of one of the holiday homes in the area after monitoring native bats in the area, the summary says.
A short time later Ferris shot two wild deer near the camping ground, using a rifle belonging to Peterson.
One of the rangers approached the defendants to speak to them but Ferris was aggressive and was not concerned when told that people were in the bush, the summary says.
DOC removed the rangers from the bush and Ferris shot at several deer close to where they had been working.
After the court hearing, DOC principal compliance officer Alan Christie said the organisation was pleased with the guilty pleas.
"Conservation land is for all Kiwis. You don't know who may be present in the bush around you and for that reason spotlight hunting is prohibited."
Spotlighting in public areas was a problem and Christie acknowledged the work of Southland police in combating the practice.
"If people want to go hunting on public conservation land they just have to obtain a hunting permit and if they do that they'll be aware of the terms and conditions around spotlighting."
Senior Constable Adam Roberts, of Riversdale, said the incident was extremely concerning.
"This is an example of the sheer carelessness and blatant disregard for others who enjoy the outdoors and it could have led to injuries, if not death."
- The Southland Times