Three men have been convicted of illegally hunting birds of prey in Waterford.
The convictions follow the discovery of live pigeons, tied up, smeared in poison, being used as bait to kill Peregrine Falcons and Sparrowhawks.
Three men from Dungarvan have been convicted on various charges under the Wildlife Act, in relation to illegally hunting birds of prey in March and April 2014. A fourth man was convicted for the illegal possession of wild birds and obstructing an authorised person.
Following hearings in Dungarvan District Court on the 15th of February and the 9th of March 2016, the four men were successfully prosecuted. The court heard that the men were part of a local pigeon racing club.
The convictions were made on the back of evidence from an investigation by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) conservation rangers Brian Duffy and Cyril Sage. Following suspicion of illegal hunting at Cappagh Quarry, Keereen Quarry and Carroll’s Quarry in Waterford, these sites were closely monitored for an extended period. During this period, several individuals were identified, and four Peregrine Falcons were found dead as well as two Sparrowhawks. In some cases, live racing pigeons were found baited with poison and tethered to stones at the tops of cliffs.
Some of these specimens, along with a number of baits were subjected to forensic testing, which resulted in the confirmation of the presence of poisonous substances.
Stephen O’Brien, 58 Congress Villas, Dungarvan was convicted of 20 offences, including hunting protected birds of prey and using a live decoy on five different dates and was fined €1500 for each date (€7,500 in total). He was also convicted of using a vehicle as an aid to offending under the Wildlife Act.
Kevin Crotty (Chairman, Dungarvan Premier Pigeon Club), 16 Lismore Avenue, Dungarvan was convicted of 10 offences over five dates and fined €600 on two dates.
John Crotty, 23 Congress Villas, Dungarvan was convicted of four offences including hunting protected birds of prey on one date and fined €700.
Christopher O’Brien, 70 Congress Villas, Dungarvan, was convicted of 16 offences in relation to the illegal possession of wild finches and obstructing an authorised person and was fined €700. He was also instructed to forfeit a stuffed Peregrine Falcon which was found in his home, as a deterrent to the hunting and trading of the birds.
Persecution of birds of prey is a significant problem all over the country, and is not confined to Waterford. Last weekend, a dying Peregrine Falcon was discovered by a member of the public at Dalkey Quarry, in Dublin. This female bird had been nesting near the site, and her death will most likely result in the failure of the eggs to hatch. While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, in 2014 the location had reports of live pigeon bait being used.
The breeding success of the species in Waterford is reported to be substantially reduced due to persecution. They rely upon small mammals and birds, including pigeons, for their diet, making them a persecution target for some unscrupulous enthusiasts of sporting activities involving such animals.
Images taken by Brian Duffy