A GOLF club in South Tyneside has come under fire for having rabbits shot.
Police were called after concerned members of the public heard shots being fired at South Shields Golf Club.
Officers attended the course, next to the Cleadon Hills nature reserve, and spoke to a rifleman hired by the club to cull rabbits in a bid to reduce the damage they have been causing to fairways and greens there.
A police spokesman said everything was found to be in order, but the club has suspended its cull for now.
It has been claimed that walkers using a public footpath passing through the course were put at risk, but the club denies that.
In an e-mail sent to the Gazette, a concerned reader, who asked not to be named, says: “They are shooting next to a nature reserve and also across the public highway that runs across the golf course to the Old Mill.
“People walk their dogs there, and people are out jogging. There are no warning signs.
“This is of huge concern to me and others. The rifleman uses silencers.”
Police confirmed they visited the course on Sunday, January 4, and found the rifleman to be in possession of a firearms licence and insurance cover from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
Malcolm McGuire, the club’s captain, has dismissed any claims that walkers were put at risk as well wide of the mark.
He said: “The claims are rubbish. These people are professionals, and nobody was ever at risk.
“We often have a problem with rabbits digging up the greens. Due to our location in the countryside, this unfortunately happens.
“Whenever it is required, professionals are hired to keep the rabbit population under control.
“After these claims were made and the police visited, instructions were put out last Monday to stop any further shooting until we’re quite sure where we stand.”
A police spokeswoman added: “At 6.40pm on Sunday, January 4, police were informed that a shotgun was being used at South Shields Golf Club in Cleadon Hills.
“An officer attended and spoke to the men, one of whom was in possession of a firearms license and a permit from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to shoot on the land.”