Three of 'Santa's reindeer' are shot and stolen by poachers
THREE reindeer from a Santa experience are believed to have been shot and stolen by poachers in Wicklow, just days before Christmas.
The deer were a feature of Santa's Journey experience for children in Roundwood.
They were part of the Santa's Journey experience at Djouce Golf Club, but were reported missing on Saturday morning.
It's understood that a member of staff from the golf club had gone to the enclosed pen the deer were kept in on Saturday morning only to notice they were missing.
The incident is understood to have taken place late into the night on Friday or early on Saturday, long after the Santa experience had closed.
The staff member said he didn't realise something sinister had happened.
"I went up last Saturday to feed them at 7am and they were missing.
"I rang the animal handler and he came down and said that it was something more sinister," he said.
"It wasn't until he came down and pointed out the blood," he added.
Trails of blood were spotted around the enclosed area in which the deer had been kept.
It's understood that these deer are sold for in the region of €30 to €50 to game dealers.
Local man Paul Cullen, who had been looking after the deer, said "it's unfortunate it's happened to Santa's deer".
He said that deer are regular targets in the Wicklow area.
"It's disgusting. This has caused disgust in the area," he added.
A Garda spokesman said: "Gardaí are investigating an incident in which three deer were stolen between December 15-16 in Ballinastoe, Roundwood, Co Wicklow.
"No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing," he added.
Thankfully for families attending the event this weekend, a replacement deer has been brought in for today and tomorrow.
This deer will be returned to its owner each night after the event closes, in order to ensure its safety.
The event, which includes a train ride, a visit to Santa's grotto and a meet and greet with the man himself, will open today from 1.30pm until 6.30pm, and from 11am until 6.30pm tomorrow.