Severed antelope heads left at Galilee park 'as a message by illegal poachers'

Parks Authority: Incident latest in cat-mouse game between park rangers and hunters, who often have them outmanned and outgunned.

June 18, 2013 14:27
2 minute read.
Deer head

Deer head. (photo credit: Courtesy Nature and Parks Authority)

Park rangers at Nahal Amud in the Upper Galilee found two severed antelope heads affixed to a chain link fence at the park on Tuesday, in what the Israel Nature and Parks Authority says was a message from poachers in the area.

“They’re trying to tell us, ‘We’re here, and we are not afraid of you,’” said Liad Ling, head investigator for the northern branch of the INPA.

Ling, formerly a chief investigator with the Tel Aviv Police branch of the Central Investigative Unit, described a cat-and-mouse game that park rangers were waging against poachers – who often have them outgunned and outmanned – in frontier areas stretching across thousands of acres.

“This is not like patrolling Tel Aviv. It’s across huge areas and they come in teams of guys in trucks with rifles, sometimes IDF rifles and other military equipment, too. They have look-outs, dogs, traps, hi-tech gear – they’re basically like a small infantry squad,” he said.

Ling described the criminals “not as hobbyists, like in England or America going out and hunting with their dogs”; rather, most of them make a living by selling the game they hunt, he said, adding that on the black market, they could sell an antelope for NIS 1,200-NIS 1,500 and could even get between NIS 400 and NIS 600 for a porcupine.

He said that most of the people he’d caught in the four years he’d been on the job had been from the Israeli Arab sector, and they would sell the meat mainly in Galilee villages, often for weddings or other celebrations.

The severed heads were discovered only a few days after a car belonging to a park ranger was torched outside his house at a moshav in the North, and a month and a half after unknown assailants severely beat a park ranger with metal poles in the Galilee.

“The boldness, chutzpah and violence on the part of the poachers keep rising, and we have to find a way to deal with it,” Ling said. “The best way I can think of is for the legal system to treat them like criminals and not people following a tradition [of hunting] who get off with fines.”

He said that each of the past four years, he’d caught about 200 people for poaching, but each time they had gotten off with a few thousand shekels’ fine or community service and were back in the bush looking for game.

“They tell me to my face, ‘You fine me and I’ll just kill some more antelope or porcupine to pay for it,’” Ling said

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