'Sheep can be frightened and run for miles': Cooley farmers concerned by teenagers using scrambler bikes
Concerns have been raised by the farming community in north Louth about teenagers using scrambler bikes on the Cooley mountains.
Louth County Council introduced bye-laws prohibiting the use of quads and scramblers on the mountains a number of years ago but local farmers and hill walkers have reported a number of incidents of these off road vehicles being driven on the open mountains in recent weeks.
IFA branch chairman Matthew McGreehan told The Argus he had been contacted by farmers who came across a group of teenagers riding scrambler bikes and quads at Moneycrockroe, above Ballymakellet.
"They followed the group across the border to Jonesboro where they disappeared but they seemed to be young teenagers."
"This is causing a lot of concern in the Ravensdale area, particularly among sheep farmers and there have also been reports of off-road vehicles on the mountains above Carlingford," he continued.
He explained that the use of quads and scramblers on the mountains was a worry for farmers as it can disturb sheep and damage the vegetation.
"Sheep can be frightened by these vehicles and it's a problem for sheep farmers putting one year old hoggets out to graze as it can scare them and they can run away for miles into other townlands."
"It's also disturbing the peace for hill walkers as it can be quite intimidating for people out enjoying a walk to come across a group of teens on bikes or quads."
Staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) section of the Department of the Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht confirmed to The Argus that they have recently received numerous reports of scramblers and quadbikes in the vicinity of the Carlingford Mountain Special Area of Conservation.
"The use of motorised off-road vehicles for recreational purposes is strictly banned within the Carlingford Mountain Special Area of Conservation and anyone caught by the NPWS or by An Garda Síochána may have their vehicles seized and face prosecution. The local Gardaí have indicated that they will co-operate fully in order to stop this illegal activity," said a spokesperson.
He pointed out that the use of motorised off-road vehicles such as scramblers, quads and 4x4s in areas such as the Cooley Mountains can cause extensive damage to the upland habitats.
"By tearing up the vegetation and breaking up the peat, the mountainside is exposed to erosion, which further damages the habitat. Indirect damage is also caused, where walkers are forced off existing trails onto adjacent, intact heath and blanket bog, by the presence of large puddles and ruts created by the bikes, widening the existing walking trails at the expense of the natural habitat."