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French village restricts hunting by banning bullets after hiker death

The death of the 25-year-old hiker in Cantal last weekend was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ on hunting accidents, the mayor’s office said

A hunter uses a hunting gun to take aim before shooting.

Hunting bullets, and by extension guns that use them, have been banned in the Occitanie village of Lherm Pic: Maksim Safaniuk / Shutterstock

A mayor in southern France has banned the use of bullets and therefore guns used for hunting in his commune, in a bid to drastically reduce hunting in the wake of the accidental killing of a 25-year-old woman last weekend.

Frédéric Pasian, mayor of the village of Lherm (Haute-Garonne, Occitanie) took out the decree as a means to strictly regulate hunting. 

The ruling is also intended to send a symbolic message after the fatal killing of a young woman by a hunting bullet in Cantal on Saturday, February 19, in a case that has shocked the nation.

Read more: Calls for hunt-free day in France multiply after hiker, 25, killed

Read more: Hunter, 17, questioned after woman shot dead on walking path in France 

The decree bans the use of bullets, and therefore long-distance hunting rifles and shotguns. 

Brigitte Boyé, deputy mayor in charge of urban planning, told Actu.fr: “The mayor has, for a long time, hesitated over whether to publish a decree that is very severe towards hunters. But the accident that took the life of a young girl last weekend was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

‘Friction between hunters and residents’

Despite its small size, Lherm has not escaped its share of hunting accidents.

In 2001, a VTT mountain biker was hit in the arm by a bullet; while last November, a bullet was found embedded in the wall of a business building, very close to where an employee had been working.

This, coupled with the death of the 25-year-old woman in Cantal, finally prompted the mayor to take action.

Ms Boyé continued: “The cohabitation between local residents and hunters has become very complex in recent months; no dialogue is possible. Many inhabitants of Lherm are afraid for their children. This is no longer acceptable. It was a bullet that hit a mountain biker in 2001. We want to ban them to avoid this kind of accident in the future.”

The ban includes hunting with bullets in several fields of the commune, as well as the Escoumes wood, which is a popular walking site with local families. 

“Our commune has become more built-up and friction between hunters and walkers has increased recently,” said Ms Boyé. “We were forced to make this decision. Hunters had already told us that they would hunt more in our commune, and that they would let boars proliferate.”

When contacted on the issue, the president of the hunting association in Lherm said he had “no comment to make on the subject”.

Death sparks more debate

It comes amid a time of fierce debate on hunting rules and regulations in France, stoked by the death of the 25-year-old woman in Cantal.

Mélodie Cauffet from Aveyron, was killed on Saturday, February 19 in Cassaniouze (Cantal, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), during a hike with her partner. She was fatally injured at around 15:00 by a bullet shot.

Initial gendarmerie reports suggested that the bullet was fired by a 17-year-old hunter from the neighbouring department of Aveyron. The shooter was taken to hospital in a state of shock, questioned in police custody and eventually charged with involuntary homicide. 

There have been several fatal accidents in recent years, including the killing of a driver who was on a departmental road close to a hunt, and of Morgan Keane, a 25-year-old man who was shot and killed by a hunter while chopping wood in his own garden in Lot in 2020. 

The hunter claimed he had mistaken him for a wild boar. 

Mr Keane’s family and friends have brought a debate to the Senate, and joined calls for two hunt-free days a week, more regulation, permits, and increased training requirements for hunters.

Read more: 'Our friend was killed by French hunter, stricter controls are vital' 

A report on the subject by the Senate is expected in July this year.

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Hunter killed by stray bullet during hunt in central France

French hunters to ‘get gift ahead of election’, say wildlife charities

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