FOUR deer were shot and left to die in a national park over Christmas.
The carcasses of two stags were discovered partially hidden in Wicklow National Park, while a hind (female deer) and her calf were also found a short distance away.
The Wild Deer Association of Ireland has raised concerns over the illegal hunting of livestock after the four animals were killed.
It is believed the poachers used large shining lights to disorientate the animals, before killing them.
They are believed to have been shot on Christmas Day or night.
They were found in the Sally Gap area of the park.
The bodies of the animals were discovered last Sunday and reported through the Wild Deer Association's website.
Gardai in Roundwood are investigating the illegal cull and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
Director of the Wild Deer Association Damien Hannigan warned that the inhumane killing and distribution of illegal wildlife poses a serious health risk for the public.
"Poachers normally go out hunting at night, and leave the deer they kill hidden in the forest and come back and collect it the next day.
"You can only imagine the vermin that the carcasses come in contact with while the bodies are left rotting over night," he said.
"These deer are then being sold on to establishments and the likes who put them on display, and it's a serious health risk for consumers who are unaware of the diseases that could be contracted from the illegally killed deer," he added.
Depending on the weight of the animal they fetch an average of €60 on the black market.
Buyers tend to offer cash the day after a kill, with Irish poachers netting an average of €600 from a day illegally killing deer and other animals.
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.
While an average deer can be sold for around €60, a stag is believed to generate profits of over €300 for the poachers, with 90pc of the illegal game killed being exported to the UK.
Operation Bambi was launched in 2013 to combat the rise in poaching, and Mr Hannigan described the initiative as "successful".
"The gardai with the help of our volunteers have been very proactive in their response to the growing number of deer being cruelly killed and in the last 12 months alone there have been more prosecutions for these offences than in the previous six years," Mr Hannigan said.