A LOCAL deer stalker is the latest individual to speak out about the deer poaching taking place across the Clogher Valley area.

The legitimate deer stalker, who wants to remain anonymous, contacted The Impartial Reporter to call for more action from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in combatting this criminal behaviour.

Read: Deer being shot to order in Clogher Valley

He has real concerns for public safety, warning: “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”

Local police say they are taking deer poaching seriously and, in response to recent public outcry about the crime, they will “raise the profile” of an initiative called Operation Wild Deer that was first established in 2013.
The most common form of deer poaching locally is ‘lamping’, whereby gangs drive along a roadside; use strong, vehicle-mounted lamps to make the deer stand motionless; use night vision equipment on their high-powered rifles to shoot the deer (mainly in the head); and come back later to collect the carcass and sell the meat illegally.

Operation Wild Deer was established in 2013, a partnership between the PSNI, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the British Deer Society, Countryside Alliance Ireland, Cookstown Council, Forest Service NI, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Scottish Association for Country Sports and Crimestoppers.

Last week Operation Wild Deer officers in Clogher seized a rifle from two men from the Republic of Ireland who are now being investigated for firearms offences.

Impartial Reporter:

The local deer stalker remains sceptical, stating: “The police know exactly who these people are and are doing nothing about it. There are farmers who are fed up going to the police because of the lack of action and there are farmers who are scared to go to police for fear of any repercussions.”

He described deer poaching as “scary” because “they are shooting sheep by mistake and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.” He warned: “A bullet from one of those high calibre rifles will travel for a mile and a half. No-one can tell where a bullet will end up if shooting at night.”

Read: Deer poaching Clogher Valley: Landowner hits out at lack of prosecutions

The man believes that deer poachers “are getting between £70 and £100 per carcass” and claims that it can be quite a lucrative black market business venture. He claims that when he took a deer to a game dealer, “he didn’t ask where it had been shot or for any form of documentation.” He also claims that a container of illegal venison leaves a port in Northern Ireland each week, destined for Scotland.

The deer stalker explained that, because deer have no natural predators, selective deer culling is necessary to control herd numbers thus reducing competition for food, environmental damage, and deer related road traffic accidents. The general consensus is that culling is best carried out by trained deer stalkers who are authorised to cull.

“The whole point of deer stalking is to manage the deer population,” the man said.  As a result of deer poaching, “there are parts of Northern Ireland where the deer population is on the verge of collapse,” he said. “The situation is frustrating for someone who is managing deer.” He added: “Soon there’ll be none left. It’s going to take years to recover.”
The man would like to see the PSNI replicate the work of An Garda Síochána, who, in his opinion “are arresting people and are hauling them before the courts.”

Read: Deer being shot to order in Clogher Valley

Emma Meredith, the PSNI’s Wildlife Liaison Officer, told The Impartial Reporter: “Operation Wild Deer is an initiative to tackle the issue of deer poaching and has been running in the Clogher Valley area. Following concerns from members of the public, local PSNI officers have raised the profile of Operation Wild Deer to help address the issues in this area.”
She continued: “Deer poaching can be barbaric and is against the law. It is the illegal or unauthorised hunting of deer. The Wildlife Order as amended protects deer in Northern Ireland.”

She said that Operation Wild Deer partner organisations have worked on deer poaching leaflets and posters which local police have recently been distributing throughout the Clogher area. 
Police are urging anyone with information, on deer poaching to contact the PSNI on 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.