Hunting areas ever decreasing

New property developments built across the Algarve over the last 30 years have resulted in a scarcity of free open countryside. This is the reason, according to hunting attack victim Keith Moore, that we are seeing more and more illegal hunting incidents in the Algarve.”

Keith, his wife Ruth and their young daughter live near the Moncarapacho area and have experienced problems with hunters appearing worryingly near to their back garden where their daughter plays. “We have always had to put up with hearing guns being fired from very early on a Sunday morning,” he explained, “but on November 16 the situation got much worse.” Keith went on to describe how, after hearing bullets reigning down, literally a matter of feet away from his back garden, his wife Ruth contacted the Olhão GNR, only for the duty officer to explain that no office was available at that time.

The noise of the guns did not stop and Keith noticed a group of hunters with a pack of hounds outside his house, clearly breaking the law which states hunting is not permitted within a 250 metre radius of a person’s land. After he politely spoke to the group about their illegal presence, one hunter aimed his gun at Keith’s chest and threatened him. “I could have died,” he told us. After a short wait, the GNR came to the Moore’s house and after finding a hunter in the vicinity, armed themselves and requested that the man, who was by now hiding in some bushes, disarm himself. Unfortunately, it was not the hunter who had attacked Keith, so no further action could be taken.

This is not the first time that the Resident has reported on aggressive hunters. In our December 19, 2003 edition we reported on a similar attack on a man in the Loulé area. It was this article that prompted Keith and Ruth Moore to join forces with other people they know across the Algarve who also experience problems during hunting seasons and start a pressure group to persuade the government to act on this problem.

Such is the interest in dealing with the potentially lethal problem of aggressive hunters that RTP television has broadcast a programme about the group’s activities. The Resident reporter George Fletcher went along to a recent meeting to find out more about this alarming situation.

In all, 15 people were present – all with some first-hand experience of illegal hunters. The task force already has a lawyer from Estoi on board and aims to petition the government as soon as possible and provide a map demonstrating clearly how little land there is actually left in the Algarve where hunters can legally exercise their sport.

Keith and Ruth Moore explained how helpful the Corpo da Guarda Florestal are in such situations and were eager that the aims of the association were made clear. “We are not trying to make things difficult for hunters”, explained Keith, “we just want the government to get involved in fighting this problem. Most hunters abide by the law and are very respectful of the boundaries. But, there are some who abuse their weapons and threaten innocent landowners, creating an utterly wrong impression of hunters as a whole.”

A spokesman from the Corpo da Guarda Florestal confirmed that the lack of land was the main cause of the problem. Established over 100 years ago, the Corpo da Guarda Florestal is the oldest police force in Portugal. Officers are armed and have full powers of arrest, but there are currently only about 17 operational officers in the Algarve region, down from 23 in 2002.

“This problem did not really exist 30 years ago,” the spokesman explained. “But now free hunting territories have decreased in the Algarve, alongside the increase in reserves.” There are two types of land where hunting is permitted: free land or ‘terreno não ordenado’, on which anyone can hunt and ‘terreno ordenado’, where hunters are required by law to have a permit. “The main problem is not with the hunters,” explained the spokesman, “the problem lies in the lack of land on which hunters can legally hunt. Like with everything there are some people who abide by the law and some who do not. A combination of education and a change in attitude is what this situation needs.”

Last year alone, the Corpo da Guarda Florestal made around 50 arrests for unlawful hunting and also issued around 50 fines.

If you want to know any more about the hunting action group you can email [email protected], and if you experience any problems with illegal hunting in your area, you can contact the Corpo da Guarda Florestal on 289 822 002.