Don’t become the “Hunted” because of Pig Hunters!

You only have to take a drive around Mackay to see the number of well equipped, off-road vehicles decked out with pig-hunting cages, to know that the sport is becoming increasingly popular.

The problem is, there are a growing number of pig-hunting enthusiasts but only a limited number of farmers who will allow them on their property. Result = pig hunters entering onto farmers’ properties without permission! This is known at law as ‘trespassing’ and is an offence.

There are a growing number of reports from farmers that hunters are responsible for leaving gates open; vandalism and damage to fences, crops and vegetation; arson; littering; shooting or having dogs attack livestock (even as a method to attract pigs); theft of stock, fuel, tools and equipment, tyres, lights; and even engaging in some ‘horticulture” of a type of grass with a big street value!

Whilst the practice of pig hunting is not itself illegal, hunters can be charged with trespassing and other offences (such as listed above). In fact, earlier this year, the newspapers had reported that police had charged several hunters for these acts.

Farms are dangerous places, wild animals can be unpredictable/aggressive and it is virtually impossible to manage all risks.

Did you know that there circumstances in which you can be liable if an invitee or even a trespasser injures themselves? Whilst the duty of care owed to trespassers is significantly lower than to other entrants, if you have turned a blind eye to the unauthorised entry, you could find yourself liable for negligence. If you have authorised the entry, then the duty owed increases.

What are the rules when it comes to pig hunting on private property?
  1. Permission must be obtained from the property owner for hunters to enter onto the property, or otherwise they are committing a trespass offence;
  2. Pig dogs must be properly secured to the vehicle as per the Queensland Transport standards;
  3. Weapons must be secured correctly as per the Weapons Act.
 
What should farmers do to protect themselves?

Self-help strategies like threatening to shoot trespassers is never a good idea. You may become the one committing the offence!

It is strongly recommended that you have large signs at the entrance to your property making it clear that it is private property, entry is not permitted and that any unauthorised entry will result in prosecution for trespass and possible other offences.

We have received reports that some farmers have even installed CCTV cameras to monitor unauthorised entry to their property.

If you do become aware of any marijuana crops being grown on your property, then you need to immediately notify police. If you fail to, then you could be committing, or aiding in the commission, of a crime by allowing the production of drugs on your property.

If you do decide to allow hunters onto your property, we recommend that you be selective and do not do it on a handshake alone. You should have a clear set of agreed rules in writing (signed by the hunters) as to the arrangement. You should also make it clear WHO is authorised to enter as there is often confusion that because you have allowed “Joe Bloggs” to enter and hunt, that you are extending the welcome to all his mates (even if he is not in attendance).

Having hunters on the property with vicious dogs and weapons can pose risk so this needs to be carefully managed. Your ‘terms’ should (among other things) explain:
  • the rules about when the hunting may occur and how and when you reserve the right to suspend or terminate the activity;
  • any requirements for notification when the hunters enter/leave the property;
  • risks of the farm and particularly, the activity of pig hunting; and
  • state that the hunters enter and occupy the property at their sole risk.
 
There are other legal clauses like indemnities for damage that you should also have your lawyer insert to give you maximum protection.

Further, before deciding to allow hunters on the property, you should make enquiries with your insurance broker to confirm that having the hunters on the property will not void your insurance policy and that you are covered if something did go wrong. It may be that your insurer will not cover you for anything connected with the hunters’ occupation or activities.

Please give one of our rural team members a call if you want more advice regarding protecting your property and yourself.