Rabbit hunters urged to seek farmers’ permission before going on land

Night hunters, or lampers, pursuing rabbits and hares have been urged to seek farmers’ permission following complaints about risks to livestock and, furthermore, amid rising fears of rural burglaries.

Up to eight men from Cork City found in a farmyard in East Cork at 3am had claimed they were “looking for a dog”.

A joint policing committee meeting in Waterford recently heard 17 complaints had been lodged with gardai in the Tramore region over a six-week period. Most of the concern was about risks to livestock and the strong lights use by lampers.

Garda Supt John Mulligan said inquiries, particularly in West Waterford, had established no connection between lampers and burglaries but said being in a farmyard was considerably more suspect than being in a field some distance from a farmhouse.

A senior IFA official appealed to people intent on hunting rabbits or hares to seek permission from farmers in advance. Cork IFA regional development officer Seán Clarke said “most farmers probably wouldn’t mind lampers accessing their land if they asked in advance. But all sorts of problems can arise when groups suddenly arrive on what is private property.”

Mr Clarke said daytime hare trapping by groups from outside the county was “also a growing problem in North Cork with fences broken and other damage regularly incurred”.

A Waterford farmer, Donal Murphy, said powerful lamps used to dazzle rabbits can also cause havoc, especially during the winter suckling season. He said fencing on his farm had been destroyed with cattle and weaning calves “scattered everywhere” after apparently being spooked into stampeding by hunters’ lights and dogs. A neighbouring farmer, on another occasion, found “70 heifers scattered five miles away on two beaches”.

Mr Murphy said he had nothing personal against lampers but “they don’t understand livestock and the lights they use nowadays scare cattle, especially when lurchers are unleashed”.

Supt Mulligan had advised the joint policining committee unless someone refused a request to leave a field, effectively no offence was committed. The meeting had also heard some farmers’ fear urban gangs may be using trapping as cover for theft.

Meanwhile, a garda in East Cork said farmers’ concerns are valid. “When you encounter groups from Cork City who have travelled 20 or 30 miles to a farm in the middle of the night, it gives good cause for suspicion.”

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