Police: Rogue hunters killed 18 deer, dozens of rabbits while shooting from car

Police in western Finland are investigating an extraordinary string of cruel hunting crimes. Police allege that four men and one underage male killed a total of 18 deer and some 30 rabbits by shooting a .22 calibre rifle from their car over the course of more than half a year.

White-tailed deer. File photo. Image Urpo Lehtimäki

Police in the western coastal municipality of Jakobstad say they suspect that five individuals shot and killed a total of nearly 50 animals from a car. The suspects allegedly used their car to hunt at night, shining bright light into the eyes of the animals in order to blind them and then shot them. They allegedly shot some 30 rabbits, 15 Roe Deer and three White-Tailed Deer.

The suspects reportedly admitted to having not attempted to stop the suffering of animals they'd merely injured.

The five male suspects, who are between the ages of 17 to 27, now face a range of hunting, firearms and animal abuse charges.

Chief Inspector Ove Storvall said that the crimes were premeditated and planned.

Around the end of May members of the Verstersundsby hunting club found a dead deer in the area, and noticed the animal had not been shot with a traditional hunting shotgun, but a small rifle.

Chief Storvall said that on the same night the hunters discovered the first deer carcass, police made their own discoveries of other carcasses, sparking a full investigation.

That discovery helped to uncover an alleged extensive, cruel pattern of a planned and systematic killing spree which police think began in the autumn of 2016.

Three of the five suspects have been detained and during interrogation, police say the men admitted to the hunting offenses. None of the rogue hunters live in Jakobstad, but live in the surrounding area, according to police.

Two of the suspects have weapons permits for hunting, but the string of animal killings were not carried out with a gun meant for hunting, rather a .22 calibre rifle equipped with a scope and silencer device.

Storvall said the suspects did not take the animals that they killed, but instead left them in the wilderness, and they also had shot the animals but only wounded them.

"During the interrogations the suspects admitted that they injured animals and didn't try to stop their suffering. The suspects did not in any way try to track down the injured animals," Storvall said.

Police have seized an automobile and two guns that are suspected to have been used in the animal killings.

Penalties for hunting crimes range from fines to up to two years imprisonment, and if the suspects are found guilty they could also financially liable for each of the killings.

"The liability sum for killing a roe deer is about 300 euros and because white-tailed deer belong to the state, the sum is between 600 to 800 euros per animal," Stovall said, adding that the car and weapons could also be permanently seized by the state because they were used in carrying out the crimes.

Edited at 23:39 to change the figure of the type of animals that were killed.

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