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Woman accidentally killed by 17-year-old girl hunting for wild boar in France

The accidental killing of a hiker by a teenage hunter in central France has rekindled debate among the country's presidential hopefuls over a divisive tradition that critics say needs more strict regulation.

The victim, a 25-year-old woman, was walking with a friend along a marked trail near Aurillac, in the heavily forested Cantal region, when she died after being hit by a stray bullet on Saturday.

The shot came from a 17-year-old girl taking part in a group hunt for wild boar. The teen was initially treated in hospital for shock before being taken into custody for questioning, which continued late Sunday.

Even though France's love of its rural heritage runs deep, the tragedy added to the growing pressure for tougher rules on hunting in a country with the largest number of hunters in Europe.

Wild boar.
An undated photo of a wild boar fleeing over snow covered field in winter in front of hunting blind in France. Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There are around one million permit-holding hunters in France, according to the FNC hunters' federation, and together with their supporters and families they could represent a pool of around 5 million voters, out of around 48 million registered to cast ballots.

"We urgently need more regulation of this activity," Yannick Jadot, the Greens candidate for the April presidential vote, said Saturday.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is leading in the polls among leftwing candidates hoping to unseat President Emmanuel Macron, called to prohibit hunting on weekends and during school holidays "because that's when there's the biggest risk."

Macron will likely face questions at his scheduled appearance at the Paris Agriculture Show on Saturday, a crucial annual visit for all politicians looking to court the rural vote.

Hundreds of hunting accident deaths since 2000

According to French daily Le Monde, citing France's biodiversity office, there have been 3,325 hunting accidents in France since 2000, resulting in 421 deaths.

France is one of the few European countries that do not prohibit hunting on certain days during the season, instead allowing hunters to shoot at all times as long as they alert others of their activity -- a requirement decried by critics as insufficient.

In 2020, Morgan Keane, a 25-year-old who was chopping wood in his garden, died after being hit by a bullet fired by someone hunting wild boar in France.  Reuters reported that incident prompted his friends to organize a petition calling for restrictions on hunting that gathered more than 120,000 signatures.

"Morgan could be you... It could be your parents, it could be anyone," said Lea Jaillard, the petition's co-organizer, told Reuters.

The petition prompted the Senate to create a panel to assess its safety.

Macron's government has always steered clear of expressing hostility to the traditional practice of hunting but has repeatedly left open the possibility of a more restrictive approach.

"If it turns out we need to tighten the rules further, we will do so," Macron's secretary of state in charge of biodiversity, Berangere Abba, told AFP, noting that France has announced the creation of an app that could indicate areas where hunts are taking place.

But such apps are often opposed by hunting groups, who say they could be used by anti-hunting activists to disrupt organized hunts.

Abba said the young hunter, who had tested negative for drug or alcohol use, had obtained her permit when 16.

"We need to verify that the hunt was correctly communicated and marked," Abba added, in particular with posted signs to alert hikers and others.

Willy Schraen, head of the FNC, which has long resisted limits, said on Facebook that local chapters were being contacted "to remind everyone of all the safety rules."

France has in recent months banned traditional hunting techniques of birds in line with a 2009 EU directive, such as hunting with nets or bird cages or glue hunting.

Macron, who is favorite to win the election, has yet to formally declare his candidacy and speculation is fizzing over whether the announcement will be made before or after the agriculture fair.

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