Tuesday 06 October 2020
The hunting season began in France last month, and within days several accidents are reported.
On the first day of the new season, the tragic death of a hunter occurred in the Oise department of Hauts-de-France, a 76-year-old man who was accidentally shot by a fellow hunter. According to press reports, the hunter thought he was targeting a wild boar.
Several days later a further accident occurred in the Corrèze, when gunshot ended up on the stairwell of a house, although fortunately no one was injured.
In the Landes, a Dutch tourist travelling along the A63 autoroute was shot in the shoulder, believed to be from a local hunter who was participating in a wild boar hunt in the area.
The cohabitation of hunters and walkers is regularly the subject of controversy.
In 2018, in a widely reported incident in Haute-Savoie, Mark Sutton, a 34-year-old British mountain biker and restaurant owner in the area, was accidentally shot and killed. The gunman, a 22-year-old thought the biker was a wild boar hurtling towards him.
In the same year, there was also an extraordinary incident in Avignon, when gunshot passed through the window of a TGV and hit the headrest of a, mercifully, empty seat. Passengers in the compartment thought a bomb had gone off.
Two months after the death of Mark Sutton a website was launched to identify victims of hunting accidents, called Victimeschasse, which has already documented about thirty cases.
There are now many calls in France for an end to hunting on Sundays, so that walkers can enjoy their pastime in peace and safety.
A recent investigation of hunting accidents by the French television channel France 2 found that incidents involving homes and vehicles had increased by 40% in the 5 years to 2017. Between 2015 to 2017, 157 houses and 99 vehicles were hit by hunting ammunition.
Although it is forbidden to hunt within proximity of a dwelling, game is moving nearer to inhabited areas in search of food and as there is less game bird hunting and more hunting of wild boar and deer, so hunters are shooting from a greater distance, and with bullets rather than lead.
Despite the increase in such incidents the number involving death or injury to individuals is falling.
According to the assessment of the Fédération nationale de la chasse et de l'Office français de la biodiversité, although victims rose last year to 141 from 131 the previous year, the annual death toll is lower than the general average of the last twenty years, which stands at 158 victims per year.
Of the 141 victims last year, there were 11 fatal accidents, only one of whom was not a hunter.
Self-inflicted accidents have increased and most of them have occurred during wild boar and deer hunting.
No doubt increased training and safety measures have contributed to the reduction in deaths, but the number of hunters has also gone down, from 1.5 million in early 2000 to 1.1 million today, a figure that still leaves hunting the third most popular sport in France, behind soccer and rugby.