The following article on illegal hunting of wildlife (including deer) by Debbie McCann appeared recently on the online news source,

‘Psycho’ poachers, who have been uploading pictures of their illegal kills on social media sites are driving an increase in wildlife crime that gardaí say is now reaching epidemic proportions.
The activities of bloodthirsty illegal hunters and poachers have grown to such an extent that more than 60 gardaí have signed up for special training in this area at the National Parks and Wildlife Service this week.

Instances of gangs ‘posting with impunity’ on social media has led to a greater-than-ever prevalence of badger baiting, as well as deer, hare and bird poaching.

Conservation ranger Noel Bulger told gardaí: ‘It is a huge problem. There are psycho poachers out there. Social media is driving it, with a “Look what I have done” mindset.’ Some of the ‘bloodcurdling’ footage shown to gardaí at the training day included scenes of badgers being ripped from their setts by dogs, hares being torn apart and gangs posing on social media with ‘trophies’ of the animals they have killed.

Three inspectors have been appointed as wildlife liaison officers, while a further 62 gardaí were trained up on the appropriate legislation. The inspectors are based in Kildare, Wicklow and Westmeath, while the other gardaí are from the Eastern region.

Superintendent Martin Walker, of Kildare Garda Station, told that inspectors have been appointed with wildlife crime as part of their portfolio of responsibilities. He said: ‘We haven’t the luxury of having a wildlife crime unit. The wildlife rangers can now work with them specifically when they have an issue in their county.’

The Superintendent said specially trained wildlife inspectors are needed across the country. ‘The reality is that for the last 18 months, the media has addressed the issue of farm trespass, or farm invasion, as I would say. ‘There is a need for it for the sake of the farmers and also the animals who suffer tremendous cruelty. It is part of our natural heritage. We must keep them here for generations to come.’

Mr Bulger told the Gardaí how there had been a problem with ‘lurching’ — hare hunting with dogs — in north Co Dublin before ¬Christmas and that people were ‘terrorised’.

A ‘successful’ joint initiative with Gardaí as part of Operation Thor — a national crackdown on burglaries — helped to bring the situation under control. The conservation ranger said that badger baiting was happening in most counties and that ‘serious criminals’ were involved. ‘Bad people are doing it. As you saw from the footage, it is bloodcurdling to watch the badger being attacked by dogs.’

Mr Bulger also said that badgers are being removed from their setts and taken to a ‘clandestine arena’ where dogs are set on them. Supt Walker, who has been leading the way in the Gardaí in relation to wildlife crime, recalled how Gardaí were called after a six-man gang threatened a farmer and hunted on his land over three days last weekend. However, the farmer refused to make a statement on the matter out of fear.

There was a community alert that went around with a picture of a vehicle. A gang of six called in last Friday, Saturday and Sunday and threatened him and they went in and hunted across his land. ‘He reported it when they were gone. We know who they are, but he won’t make a statement of complaint.’ He said: ‘It is my theory these gangs also scope out the security arrangements on these farms.’

Wicklow and Kildare are ‘prime’ areas for the deer poaching, while Laois and Offaly are badly hit with gangs of hare poachers. In Kildare alone there are six live wildlife cases scheduled to be heard at different dates between now and March. These include two deer, two finch and two hare cases.

Wexford is also currently being targeted by the hare poachers, who are being driven out of the Eastern Garda Region because of a clampdown. A source told ‘The guys behind it were prosecuted in the Eastern Region and now they are going to softer terrain. ‘They’re moving away from our area and going elsewhere. If we had everyone singing from the one hymn sheet, it would be great”.

‘Four units from Kildare and Wicklow were out with the NPSW on Friday evening. We need to keep the pressure on,’ the source said.