Inquiry into use of Crossbows and Bows to hunt animals

March 11, 2021

The wounding and slow death of a brushtail possum found with a crossbow bolt through its body at Aberfoyle Park last month shocked our community. The female possum had a joey in her pouch, which also died.

While the person responsible for last month’s awful, illegal incident is still to be identified, the good news is that the State Government has launched an Inquiry into the use of these weapons to kill animals.

RSPCA is opposed to the use of bows to kill any species of animal, whether that species is considered protected or feral. Some bow types include longbows, recurve bows and crossbows. (Crossbows are banned in all states except Victoria and South Australia.)

Bow use is largely unregulated

Regardless of the bow type, animals struck by arrows or crossbow bolts experience significant pain, suffering and distress – it is never a rapid or humane death.

In South Australia, bows can legally be used to hunt many introduced species of animals, sometimes referred to as feral, so long as the hunter has the landholder’s permission. Bow use is largely unregulated. There is no prescribed season nor any bag limit applied, and bow shooters are not required to comply with a mandatory code of practice.

For most types of bow use, all that is required is a basic hunting permit and with the activity occurring on private land, unmonitored, we do not know the number of animals in South Australia being killed by bows or their species.

The damage is horrific

RSPCA believes there is no justification for using an unavoidably inhumane killing method when more humane options are available. (A head shot from a firearm is considered to achieve the most humane death for many species.)

“It may be an enjoyable challenge for some hunters, but animals hit by arrows and crossbow bolts normally remain conscious as they suffer for several minutes in extreme pain before dying from massive blood loss.

“The tissue and organ damage inflicted by these weapons is horrific.”

Regarding the current. Inquiry, Dr Eyers said:

“No amount of extra regulation can make bow use humane because bows do not kill humanely. And no species should ever be killed inhumanely.”

If our inspectors are able to identify the person responsible for leaving the brushtail possum to die slowly from the crossbow bolt through her body, the potential penalties are high.

Under SA’s Animal Welfare Act, anyone found guilty of an aggravated cruelty offence could face up to four years imprisonment or a $50,000 fine.

Possums are a protected species under South Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Act. A permit is required from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to capture, release or kill a possum – and the use of bows or crossbows to kill them is prohibited.

The deadline for submissions to the Bow and Crossbow Hunting Inquiry is the 9th of April 2021, with a final report on the findings expected in late 2021.

Additional information on the Inquiry and making a submission is available here.

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