Poaching a major problem in Slieve Bloom area
Deer poaching has become a major problem in the Slieve Bloom mountains where patrols have been intensified by the Ranger Service of Duchas, the Heritage and Wildlife Service.
The opening of the deer-hunting season on September 1st has brought a new wave of poachers to the area which, unlike other mountain ranges, is well served by a network of roads.
This allows poachers to get quite close to their quarry, kill and drive the carcass away from the 100,000 acres of mountain range for disposal throughout the country.
A crackdown in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains has made it more difficult for the poachers to operate in the area and, while poaching continues, the level has dropped.
The availability of the Garda helicopter has also frightened off would-be poachers from Dublin who can make hundreds of pounds a night by killing animals and selling them on the black market.
Some of these are thought to have turned their attention on the midlands where the helicopter does not normally operate and where the road network makes escape much easier than in the Wicklow or Dublin Mountains.
A number of people who are not from the midlands have appeared in court recently charged with offences under the 1976 Wildlife Act under which deer are a protected species.
Perhaps the greatest deterrent in the midlands is the attitude of the judge who deals with most of the cases in the area.
Outlining his opposition to hunting at a court sitting in Birr, Co Offaly, last week, Judge Jim Sullivan said he was "repulsed" by the idea of people shooting animals or birds in the name of sport, even though it was accepted around the world.
As a professional judge he had to put aside his private views, but the idea of killing was still repulsive to him.
While he did not order the confiscation of hunting weapons seized by rangers investigating the firing of shots on the mountains, Judge Sullivan ordered the defendants to pay £200 each to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a further £100 to the court poor-box.