Gardai in Kerry say they want to clamp down on 'lamping rabbits' and have issued an appeal to the public, particularly elderly people in rural areas, to report sightings.
Those who were genuinely trying to get rabbits need have nothing to fear and would have no problem with Gardai approaching them, the Gardai said.
Lamping of rabbits takes place at night and involves lurcher dogs and is conducted under cover of darkness. Winter, with its long evenings, is a peak time for it.
A meeting between senior Gardaí, farmers concerned about interference with fencing and livestock, as well as official hare coursing representatives, took place in Tralee some months ago amid concern that some of those involved were interfering with livestock, wildlife and may have intentions other than seeking out rabbits with torches.
Gardai say it is “an opportunistic activity” in that it provides an excuse for people to trespass onto lands, allowing some to use the excuse they were looking for their dog.
“It gives people good scope to look around,” Garda Marcus Twomey of Tralee Gardaí said.
“We question the motives of some of the individuals involved in this,” Garda Twomey said.
Rabbit lamping was particularly popular in north Kerry, he added.
Gardai wanted to highlight this activity that was on going, but may not be not widely known. There had been a number of sightings in recent weeks and Gardai wanted to take a look at it.
“It’s an activity we want to keep an eye on. We want to clamp down on,” the Garda said during the regular Garda information appeal on Radio Kerry this week.
He urged the public to report it to Tralee Gardai or any Garda station, saying that anyone who is genuinely looking for rabbits would have no problem with being approached by gardai.
Much of the pursuit of rabbits takes place in the early hours.
If people wanted to make statements, the Gardai were willing to take it on, he said, adding that an offence of trespass could be dealt with under the Public Order Act. The wildlife act could also be invoked if protected animals (rabbits are not protected) were being targeted.
Deer associations have said that lamping rabbits can sometimes be a guise for poaching.
Superintendent Dan Keane of Listowel Gardai said a meeting, which included the Superintendent in Tralee, Jim O’Connor, and IFA representatives and officials from coursing organisations, took place amid concerns about damage to land and fences and suspicion that some of those involved might be up to other activity.