Poachers go for the velvet

SHEER GREED: Neville Cunningham lost a trophy stag to a poacher who just wanted the velvet.
SHEER GREED: Neville Cunningham lost a trophy stag to a poacher who just wanted the velvet.

The poaching of game animals on privately owned hunting estates and game parks has reached a new low, according to long-time hunter and operator of Mt Cook Trophy Hunting, Neville Cunningham.

Recently, Mr Cunningham came across the grisly remains of a wapiti stag which had been shot on his property and its antlers sawn off. "Whoever killed it just cut off the velvet, which was worth about $500 on the black market and left the rest," he said.

"I felt sick. It was just sheer greed." Poaching at game estates and farms was not new, Mr Cunningham said.

"It has been going on since the days of Robin Hood.

"If someone is hungry and needs to feed his family, I have no problem, come and ask me and I will take them out and show them which animal to shoot. "But to shoot a stag, saw off the velvet and leave the rest, is unforgivable."

Not all poachers moved by foot or vehicle, Mr Cunningham said.

"Some are cheeky enough to fly in by helicopter, shoot the deer and then winch it out," he said.

"Some are also hardened, seasoned hunters who see this [poaching] as a perk of the job. This type of theft gives every honest professional and recreational hunter a bad name."

Efforts to counteract poaching have included some trespass orders plus warning signage and surveillance cameras which track human and vehicle movement.

But, as Mr Cunningham said, poachers ignore signs.

"We do have some images from the surveillance cameras which may provide some valuable information," he said.

"If we get to a prosecution, I hope they get a stiff sentence. Unfortunately, there is a small sector, probably about 1 per cent, who seem to think it is their right to steal and they spoil it for the honest people."

The Timaru Herald