Can I enter an adjoining property to follow up on a wounded animal?
From JP. Orange, NSW
We have all been there. We have taken a shot, and the animal concerned has, hopefully with its last breath, sprinted for the fence, escaping into an adjoining property. Nevertheless, you have a nagging thought – did I pull the shot?
Our obligations as a sportsperson are clear, and we must take steps to prevent suffering by following up on wounded game. However, what do you do when the animal has escaped onto an adjoining property that you do not have permission to shoot on?
‘If you jump the fence’, and follow up the animal, without the permission of the landowner, you are trespassing. Trespassing is a civil matter, between the landowner and you. However, there is a specific crime listed in the Crimes Act 1900 of ‘Trespassing with or dangerous use of a firearm or spear gun’ (s93H). There is similar legislation in other states.
While there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ defence, I would not want to rely upon ‘tracking wounded game on humanitarian grounds’, as the reason for this, particularly seeing as the maximum penalty is 5 years, or 10 years if you fire the weapon.
Other legislation regulating enclosed lands in NSW is the Enclosed Lands Protection Act 1901. Again, similar legislation exists in other states.
One young fellow I represented a while back told me that he did not think anyone owned the land upon which he and his mates were camping and hunting.
There has not been land that could be regarded in this way since the first settlement of Australia, and even in that context, given that Australian Aboriginals have now been held to have land rights, permission should have been sought from them.
The best thing you can do, is note the point where the animal crossed over, and its direction of travel. Ideally, mark it on a GPS, so you have a precise reference point to pick up the trail from, and then go searching for the adjoining landowner. It is ten to one he has good relations with the property owner whose property you are hunting on and, having seen you do the ‘right thing’, you may even get an invitation to return.
On the occasion this has happened to me over the years, I have never had permission refused, although one friend of mine was told that the adjoining property had been bought by greenies, and to stay well away!
I hope this answers your question.
If you are a firearms owner anywhere in Australia, please feel free to email me any question that you may have. If it is of general interest I will publish a reply.
The above is prepared as general information only. If you require legal advice, it needs to be specific to your circumstances. Requesting or reading the above does not give rise to a solicitor-client relationship.