Cameras installed to catch illegal hunters
AN INCREASE in livestock being slaughtered by hunters is forcing desperate farmers to install hi-tech security cameras to catch armed trespassers.
Fed-up East Gippsland farmers say they are losing thousands of dollars in stock due to reckless hunters entering their properties and shooting indiscriminately.
Many farmers are installing security cameras in the hope of prosecuting shooters, with one camera recording a shooter dressed in what looks like full combat gear, walking across a farm at Tongio, near Swifts Creek, late last year.
The shootings, combined with growing cases of livestock theft across Victoria, have renewed calls for a greater police focus on farms and high-value animals.
The East Gippsland farmers have formed the High Country Illegal Shooters Group to tackle the problem, with 23 landholders attending a recent meeting of the group in Swifts Creek.
Victoria Police have moved to allay farmer fears over the illegal shooters, promising to crack down hard on offenders.
"We want to reassure victims that police will act and investigate reported incidents,” a police spokesman said.
"Landholders are putting up cameras because it is such a problem, they are sick of this stuff,” Leading Senior Constable Gavin Murphy of Omeo Police said.
"Imagine if this happened in Melbourne - someone dressed as a commando walking around your backyard with a high-powered rifle. You would want to stop it as well. There's a lot of angst among farmers. They don't want clowns swarming around their property.”
Omeo farmer Simon Lawlor has installed cameras on his property but has so far had no luck identifying shooters or number plates.
"I would have had $15,000 worth of stock shot over the past few years,” Mr Lawlor said.
"There's lots of angst, to be honest. Deer shooters, not deer, are our biggest single problem.”
Mr Lawlor said farmers wanted policing beefed up and penalties for rogue shooters increased.
He said single-officer police stations at Omeo and Swifts Creek could not patrol such vast areas.
"We need a special taskforce to deal with the problem, it is a much bigger problem than they let on,” he said.
He said farmers weren't anti-hunting, they just wanted to stop people from entering their properties.
Cassilis resident and High Country Illegal Shooters Group member Peter Young said landholders wanted solutions.
"The main thing to come out of the last meeting was that if someone sees something illegal, then they must call 000. It doesn't matter if they are just letting off firecrackers,” he said.
"What's been happening is that landholders see something wrong, they call the local police, but by the time they get there the trespassers are gone and nothing is recorded.
"So the extent of the problem is not showing up in the statistics.
"If everything is recorded by calling 000 then we have a powerful case to go to the government and ask for extra police personnel and penalties.”