Dogs and SUV-type vehicles are being used to chase deer to exhaustion, lamps are being used to dazzle them and hunters are also using firearms and infrared equipment as reports of illegal hunting soar this season.
The Irish Deer Commission said wildlife crime has soared in the South-West, especially along the Kilgarvan and Colea areas along the Cork-Kerry border and around Kenmare. Reports have also come in about illegal hunting in the Kilcummin area north of Killarney.
The reports include dazzling deer at night with lamps to confuse the animal which is then shot or chased by specially bred lurcher-type dogs who chase the deer to exhaustion, at which point it is then bludgeoned to death or has its throat cut. Infrared equipment is also being employed.
“Members of the Irish Deer Commission national executive met with An Garda Síochána to discuss the significant increase in wildlife crimes against deer in the Cork/Kerry area and further meetings are planned with senior gardaí,” said Damian Hannigan, public relations officer with the commission involved in deer management and conservation.
A video shared on social media in the past week shows a large red stag being chased by dogs at night as poachers drive alongside with lamps to dazzle him. The dazzled stag is hit by the vehicle as the poachers laugh at his distress.
Mr Hannigan described the video as “deeply disturbing”.
“We are deeply concerned by this video and the significant increase in reports of suspected illegal killing of wild deer at night,” he said. “Sadly, this type of crime is common in Ireland, since September we have received 34 reports of suspected crimes against wild deer or deer poaching.
As the days grow shorter we will see an increase in this crime in the coming weeks, and we would call on hunters and the general public to report any suspicious activity of illegal hunting at night to their local Garda station or NPWS conservation ranger.
The season for the hunting of female deer under permit opens on November 1 and he said there are fears of a further increase in illegal hunting in advance of the Christmas season by unscrupulous gangs who sell the venison illegally.
Such criminals are detested by law-abiding hunters and those involved in deer management, Mr Hannigan said, adding, “these criminals have no regard for animal welfare or the management or conservation of wild deer”.
They also put rural communities and livestock at risk of injury or death.
While deer poaching is a national problem, counties Kerry, Cork, Wicklow, Tipperary, and Donegal have become black-spots for this crime, he said.
As illegal hunting rises, tourism in Killarney is growing on the back of the ruttting season as people try to see the unique Killarney deer amid sepctacular autumn foliage.
Large stags and hinds are often within metres of the Victorian-era The Lake Hotel, with photographers and diners enjoying the sights along the eastern edge of Lough Leane, the largest of the Killarney lakes.