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Farmer had ‘no option’ but to shoot swans that ‘cleaned my grass bare’

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A dairy farmer who shot a number of swans had been “left with no option” due to the damage they were causing his business, Nenagh District Court heard.

Thomas Hogan of Kylebeg, Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 24 of the Wildlife Act at Ashley Park on March 21, 2021.

Sgt Regina McCarthy told the court that a witness had reported hearing gunshots.

Mr Hogan was interviewed and told gardaí that the swans were “costing me a fortune”.

Conservation officer with the Irish Wildlife Services Dr Ciara Powell visited the scene and found 12 dead swans but it had been hard to ascertain how they had all died as they had been scavenged by animals, but three had gunshot wounds.

Sgt McCarthy said

Mr Hogan had said the swans had been costing his business and that there had been an increase in the number of them arriving on the land.

“He said he had been left with no option as the swans were eating his grassland,” she said.

Mr Hogan had expressed regret and had tried other methods to get rid of the swans, she said.

“He didn’t realise the swans were protected species,” said Sgt McCarthy

, who said Mr Hogan had told her it “didn’t give him any satisfaction to shoot the swans”.

Mr Hogan admitted shooting the birds. He rented 24ac of land, including a 5ac turlough where the swans landed, and used the grass for silage and as winter grazing for replacement heifers.

He said that the problem with the swans had begun about five years ago and had been “getting worse”.

“I had tried to hunt them off the field. It looked like I was going to lose a whole crop of grass,” he said. “At one stage there were nearly 400 swans in the field.”

Mr Hogan said “I regret the decision”, but added that he would not have been able to withstand the financial implications.

He said that at one stage he had spread slurry in the field and the swans had left but returned when the grass shoots began growing and “cleaned it bare”.

Initially he had lost around €6,500 but that would have risen to between €15,000 and €20,000 if he had lost the full crop.

“If I didn’t get feed I would have had to sell stock,” said Mr Hogan.

He said that the increase in swan numbers could be traced to rewetting the bogs in the Midlands which was forcing them to find a new habitat.

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There had always been a few swans at the turlough but the issue now was with the numbers arriving.

“I find the whole thing terribly embarrassing,” he said.

Dr Powell told the court that swans were a protected species but farmers could apply for compensation for allowing swans to graze land. She said Mr Hogan had not liaised with the service.

Dr Powell said that while Mr Hogan had stated he had shot non-native migratory whooper swans, the three swans she had found with gunshot wounds were mute swans, which were native to Ireland.

Judge Elizabeth MacGrath adjourned the case to July 15 to decide penalties.


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