“Fowl” Play? Massachusetts Family May Be Criminally Charged with Hunter Interference

A family of three from Marshfield, Massachusetts, could face criminal charges. Their crime? Harassing duck hunters.  Police Chief Phil Tavares said his department is seeking a clerk magistrate hearing in order “to determine whether there is probable cause to charge the family members with three counts of hunter interference and two counts of threatening to commit a crime.”

Julie Carreiro said that her family was awakened very early one October morning this fall by the sound of gunfire. She, her husband, and their son ran outside. They found hunters on conservation land that abuts their property. The hunters reportedly told police that the Carreiros had threatened them with physical harm if they didn’t leave. Chief Tavares said, “Members of the family began to use air horns to possibly attempt to scare away the water fowl, which is interference with a hunter.”

Carreiro, who has lived on her property since 1964, said that no one in her family had ever heard or seen hunters on the conservation land until last year. She told CBS News what happened when her family first encountered hunters near their property last year: “The bird shot was raining down on us and we were scared for our lives. We went running into the house ducking for cover.” She claimed that after her family called the police to complain about the hunters, the only thing police did was to “tell the hunters not to aim toward the house…”

Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts owns the conservation land that abuts the Carreiro’s property. Public recreation is allowed on the trust’s land—but no hunting is permitted there. According to reports, even though hunting is not allowed on the land—it had not been posted with “no hunting” signs.

Tavares reportedly said that the hunters’ encounter with the Carreiro family is illustrative of “an ongoing, seasonal dispute between hunters trying to exercise their right to hunt off Careswell Street and neighbors who feel their privacy and safety are being violated during water fowl hunting season.”

Tavares wants the court to determine if this was a legal hunt. He said, “You can only hunt on property that’s owned by the Wild Land Trust by permit. They have never issued a permit to hunt there.” He said that there was, however, a “loophole” in the law because no “no hunting” signs had been posted there. Tavares continued, “If it is not posted ‘no hunting’ it’s not enforceable. The hunters have no notice they are not supposed to be there, and to their best belief they were hunting legally.”

Tavares, who comes from a family of hunters, told the Patriot Ledger that “it’s a balancing act between upholding rights and maintaining public safety.” He added, “When I was a kid, we managed to hunt without bothering anyone, but if you’re in a park or playground, even if you’re 500 feet away, it could be a public safety issue. Things that are lawful can still be troublesome and disturbing.”

Note: “The trust has since given authority for the land to be posted, so it is now illegal and enforceable.” (Patriot Ledger)

Even though there weren’t any “no hunting” restrictions posted on the conservation land—the hunters evidently hadn’t been issued a hunting permit. I’d have to ask: How could they have been “hunting legally?”

What Next?

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