Best Beloved was talking to a Cousin who has opened a supermarket at the point where his land meets ours at the main road. Cousin is a hunter with a pack of dogs that he exercises in the area. In the course of the conversation Best Beloved mentioned that our dog had died – probably as a result of poison, that Mili’s dog had been saved in the nick of time, and that he wondered was it a result of farmers putting poisoned bait out to combat magpies – notorious fruit thieves (we have seen far fewer magpies than normal this year: usually I lose 30% of the apples to birds, this year I have lost none.)
“I don’t think so,” Cousin had answered. “There’s poison bait all along the valley – other peoples’ dogs have also had trouble.”
The valley – a ‘No Hunting’ strip of privately held plots, until recently posted out of bounds for anyone with a hunting dog – has now been included in an area where hunters are permitted to exercise their dogs, according (I think) to the common law notion of Right of Way. We used to call the Game Authority when we saw people there: a yelping pack is a pain in the ass at 0600 on a Sunday morning, especially when they’re traipsing across your property or the hunters are stopping for a gossip 20 metres from your bedroom window. Last time we called, the Authority told us that the hunters had a right to be there as long as they were only using the area for exercising and were not actually armed or coursing.
Cousin went on to say that he believes another hunter has left bait all over the valley in order to wipe out dogs belonging to ‘the competition’ and leave the field clear for his own.