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Hunters say family chased, scared away ducks


MARSHFIELD, Mass. —Three members of a Marshfield family who allegedly used an air horn to scare away ducks and made threats toward hunters in a no-hunting area could face criminal charges, the town’s police chief said.

The Patriot Ledger reported that Chief Phil Tavares said police are seeking a clerk magistrate hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to charge the family members with three counts of hunter interference and two counts of threatening to commit a crime.

Tavares said the incident illustrates an ongoing, seasonal dispute between hunters trying to exercise their right to hunt off Careswell Street and neighbors who feel their privacy and safety are being violated during water fowl hunting season.

The issue of hunting boundaries came up this month in Quincy, where residents near the state-owned Squantum Point Park and city-owned Merrymount Park have complained about the sight and sounds of shotgun-toting hunters.

In Marshfield, three hunters who set up at a pond off Careswell Street to hunt water fowl were confronted by three family members who live nearby, Tavares said. Hunting is not allowed in the area, but the restriction was not posted.

Tavares did not name the family members because they have not been charged.

He said the family threatened the hunters with physical harm if they didn’t leave.

“Members of the family began to use air horns to possibly attempt to scare away the water fowl, which is interference with a hunter,” Tavares said.

The chief said police departments rarely deal with the interference charge.

The land is owned by the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, which allows public recreation, but not permitted hunting, on the property, Tavares said.

“But they did not post it properly for no hunting, so there was no way to enforce it,” he said. “The trust has since given authority for the land to be posted, so it is now illegal and enforceable.”

Coming from a family of hunters, Tavares, who has a hunting license, said it’s a balancing act between upholding rights and maintaining public safety.

“When I was a kid, we managed to hunt without bothering anyone, but if you’re in a park or playground, even if you’re 500 feet away, it could be a public safety issue,” said Tavares, adding that he has been hit with birdshot. “Things that are lawful can still be troublesome and disturbing.”

Tavares said the town’s hunting advisory committee will likely take up the safety issues and determine whether to recommend the adoption of any new bylaws regarding hunting.

Quincy police and city officials say that as long as hunters follow state laws — staying more than 500 feet from dwellings and 150 feet from public roadways — they are not doing anything illegal.

At least 40 cities and towns in the state have bylaws that prohibit the discharge of firearms, according to information compiled in 2003 by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Quincy has such an ordinance, but it exempts hunters, and Marshfield only prohibits people younger than 18 from using a firearm anywhere other than in a range.