Saturday 27 December 2014

Gardai seize deer's head as Operation Bambi hits poachers

Ken Foy Crime Correspondent

Published 22/04/2014 | 10:03

Poacher holds deer's head in Facebook photo
Poachers pose for Facebook picture

This is the deer's head that has been seized as part of an investigation into poaching code-named Operation Bambi.

The discovery was made by Tallaght gardai when five officers entered a house last Friday week after they obtained a warrant under the Wildlife Act.

It is understood that the head belonged to a deer that was poached using two lurchers and a spotlight in the Dublin Mountains.

Sources have revealed that gardai were alerted to the situation after an image of the deer's head was placed on Facebook.

Operation Bambi, being conducted by gardai and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is co-ordinated by Insp Martin Walker who is based at Carlow garda station.

It is understood that the Facebook image of the deer's head was sent to Insp Walker who was passed on the information to colleagues in Tallaght who then conducted a search of the house.

Commenting on the seizure, Damien Hogan, the secretary of the Wild Deer Association of Ireland said: "The Wild Deer Association of Ireland welcomes this development and would like to thank all involved."

"There has been a significant increase in the number of successful prosecutions and detections in recent months, and we would encourage our members and supporters to continue to report suspected incidents of deer poaching."

The Herald revealed last December that a gang that gardai targeted was responsible for poaching up to 200 deer after boasts about their exploits were posted on Facebook.

The deer hunters has been operating without licences in counties Wicklow, Carlow and Kilkenny and were under investigation by gardai since the start of the season last September.

Senior sources said that one suspect used Facebook to boast he has killed 15 deer in one night, and that gardai would not catch him.

The poachers operated with the help of a high-powered lamp and an electronic device imitating the call of a stag during the rut, or mating season, in October.

This attracted stags to come out of their cover in heavily forested areas and become easy targets for the poachers.

Co Wicklow is reckoned to have the highest concentration of Sika deer in Europe after it was introduced from its native Japan by Lord Powerscourt in 1859, at his estate near Glencree.

Sika and red deer are closely related, and as a result of inter-breeding, all of the deer now in Wicklow are hybrids.

It is estimated that about 12,000 of the 32,000 deer shot under licence last year were killed in Wicklow, while hundreds more fell victim to poachers.

It is understood that venison from poached Irish deer is being exported.

Intelligence available in the Operation Bambi team indicates that some of those involved are supplying poached deer directly to British dealers who collect carcasses at pre-arranged locations using refrigerated lorries.

It is believed some of those involved are supplying poached deer directly to British dealers.

Evening Herald

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