Fewer Central Otago farmers let hunters onto their properties for an annual rabbit hunting event after items and animals went missing from some farms.
Alexandra hunter Ray Moffat, who has participated in the Easter Bunny Hunt every year since it started 26 years ago, said some farmers were unhappy with how rabbit shooters had treated them in previous years and refused to open some sections of their properties for this year’s event.
“We just can’t get stations now, we can’t get farms,” he said.
Over 200 hunters competed to see how many could shoot the most pests overnight on Good Friday and during Saturday morning.
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Rabbits are considered pests because they eat seedlings and strip leaves from vegetable crops.
Twenty-one hunters – down from 28 last year – participated in this year’s event, killing over 8000 rabbits.
Moffat, 61, said one farmer lost a deer several years ago when someone forgot to close a gate.
Another farmer told Moffat he was unhappy when a medicine ball was stolen from a shed during the Easter Bunny Hunt a few years ago, and some farmers found mess left behind, he said.
“I work hard with farmers to get them into the competition and that’s what they tell me.”
The hunters who caused problems “stuffed up badly”, Moffat said.
“The teams who are serious about it . . . care and look after the farmers.”
Easter Bunny Hunt organiser David Ramsay there were no complaints from farmers after previous events.
“Most of them are pretty satisfied because it doesn’t cost them anything [to get rid of pests].”
They struggled to get 21 farms on board this year though because the latest rabbit virus, used to try control rabbit populations, was set to be released in late March.
Ramsay said there were no issues with mess left on farms or gates left open.
“That’s probably something that came to someone’s imagination.”
“An odd person leaves the gate open but they get instructed to close them,” he said.
Federated Farmers Otago president Phil Hunt said there was always risk involved when letting strangers enter property.
“People take advantage and that’s a shame.”
Easter Bunny Hunt participants had to be respectful, he said.
“The access will be denied in the future if farmers have an issue.”
The event was organised by the Alexandra Lions Club as a community fundraising initiative for Dunstan Hospital at Clyde.