Three men have been arrested on suspicion of deer poaching after concerns that the numbers of animals illegally shot was reaching crisis levels.
The men were detained in planned searches in Carlow town and about 20km away in the village of Rathvilly near the Wicklow border.
The men, aged in their 20s, were arrested as part of an ongoing investigation involving gardaí and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
At least one rifle and two silencers were recovered during the searches.
The operation followed large numbers of deer being shot for sale in Wicklow, Carlow, and Kilkenny, with experts warning that the slaughter was reaching epidemic proportions.
The season opened for licensed hunters on Sept 1.
Gardaí said the searches uncovered some evidence and the three men were being detained in Carlow and Thomastown stations under Section Four of the Criminal Justice Act.
Scores of deer are being shot across the three counties, with an average hind fetching about €70 and a stag about €100.
During the wider investigation into poaching, which has been going on for several weeks, one man was stopped with 24 shot deer in his van.
Poachers generally target herds in the uplands of Wicklow, Carlow, and Kilkenny at night, using high-powered rifles and infra-red lights to pick up the eye reflections of deer.
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