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State agency proposes hunting bans in busiest hiking areas

The proposal comes after two people were killed in Finland last year in separate hunting accidents within national parks.

Huomioväriseen pipoon pukeutunut metsästäjä tähtää haulikolla. Kuvassa metsästäjä ylhäältä nähtynä.
File photo of a hunter. There is no relation between the photo and the two fatal accidents that occurred last year. Image: Sauli Antikainen / Yle

State forest agency Metsähallitus has proposed the tightening of restrictions on hunting in some of Finland's national parks following two fatal accidents last year.

In one incident, a 30-year-old mountain biker died after being hit by a bird hunter's gunshot in Urho Kekkonen National Park in October.

The agency's Lapland Regional Director Jyrki Tolonen told Yle that the measures could be introduced in areas that are particularly popular with hikers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.

"We are not even proposing a total ban on hunting in national parks. Not very many [hunters] would even go to these tourist areas to hunt, but it would be clearer and safer that hunting in these places is completely banned," Tolonen said, adding that the intention is not to significantly affect the local hunting rights granted under current regulations.

In November, Minister of the Environment Krista Mikkonen (Green) asked Metsähallitus for a report on the overall safety of Finland's national parks.

Tolonen said it was suggested at the time that a separate report on hunting safety was also needed.

"This [suggestion] was taken forward and local game management associations have also been consulted, and the report will be completed within a few weeks," he said.

Weapons training as part of hunting license application

The Finnish Hunters' Association has presented its own proposals for improving hunting safety. According to Executive Director Jaakko Silpola, the three-point programme aims to prevent accidents caused by human error.

"Accidents are often caused by either poor observation or a weapon handling error, and these three proposals relate to them," Silpola said.

The most noteworthy proposal would be the inclusion of mandatory weapon handling training in order to receive a hunting license. The training would last six hours and would be conducted on a shooting range.

"When you are familiar with the weapon, you can then focus on the world around you better," Silpola explained as the reason for the need for weapons training.

Silpola further suggested that investigations be launched into all accidents as a means of preventing future tragedies.

"After all, the idea is not to think about the culprits, but to think about how accidents can be prevented. This operating culture could also be brought to the hunting sector," he said.

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