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Hares have disappeared from the North Bull Island, one of Ireland’s most important and best known nature reserves!

category international | environment | opinion/analysis author Wednesday April 08, 2015 19:43author by Protect the Irish Hare Report this post to the editors

Sad news for Ireland's wildlife...

The Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (CACS) has issued this statement, dated April 8th, 2015:

We are alarmed at the news that hares are now EXTINCT on Dublin Bay’s North Bull Island, one of Ireland’s most important nature reserves and coincidentally one that for generations had been almost synonymous with the iconic Irish Hare.
Hares on the North Bull Island
Hares on the North Bull Island

This is an ominous development in the ongoing threat to the Irish Hare, a sub species of the Mountain Hare that is unique to Ireland and has long been a treasured part of our wildlife heritage.

In former years hares were netted for organized hare coursing events on the North Bull Island. Coursing clubs continue to net hares in many parts of the country for their cruel fixtures but what role they might have played in this latest debacle is unclear, especially given the secrecy that surrounds hare netting and related coursing practices.

An article on the North Bull Island Wildlife website, which is run by an ecologist with over 40 years experience of studying and recording wildlife, reveals that no hares have been spotted on the island since June 2014.
The article states: "The native Irish Hare was once abundant on the island but is now on the verge of extinction for the second time in recent decades. In 2014 only one animal was reported up to the end of May 2014; then two were observed in June. No hares have been recorded since June despite extensive searches."

The disappearance of hares from the island is attributed to disturbance by humans and dogs, with assorted environmental factors playing a less significant role.

The absence of the Irish Hare from this internationally recognized nature reserve must surely be a matter of concern for our politicians, regardless of their views on the deliberate ill-treatment of hares in organized coursing events.

It should also be a source of embarrassment to the political establishment, given the fact that licenses permitting the annual netting of thousands of hares are granted to coursing clubs. Hares are netted in almost every county of the Republic, and NPWS reports show that they have even been removed from off shore islands (e.g. Island Eddy in Galway Bay, Oyster Island off the Sligo coast, and Hog Island off the Clare coast) and just about any place the coursing clubs can find them.

Netting threatens local hare populations and is responsible for widespread interference with the species, including disturbance of pregnant hares, nursing mothers and leverets. Resulting depletion of vulnerable population pockets can lead to local extinction.
Apart from the cruelty factor (maulings and other injuries are recorded by wildlife rangers annually at coursing events), there is also a concern about the reproductive viability of hares that are released back into the wild after being subjected to the terror, stress, and trauma of coursing.

The demise of the Irish Hare on the North Bull Island is all the more shocking and unacceptable given that the island has the most designations of any site in Ireland.

It is a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve and is part of the Natura 2000 Network. Yet, despite this blanket of theoretical protection, the hares seem to have vanished into thin air on the island.

We have urged the Department of Arts and Heritage to facilitate the re-introduction of hares to the North Bull Island and to allocate the necessary resources to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to enhance their protected status on the island thereafter.

The two pronged menace of coursing clubs and lurcher gangs

We believe urgent action is also required to protect the Irish Hare nationwide and we strongly suggest that no further netting licenses be granted to coursing clubs, regardless of how much political influence these people can muster. In the past they have held many of our politicians in a vice-like grip, pulling the wool over their eyes with their “we love the hare more than anyone” nonsense.

Coursing clubs and renegade lurcher gangs are depleting our Irish Hare population nationwide. The coursing clubs, though not intentionally in cahoots with the illegal poachers, are directly facilitating them by concentrating captured or “released” hares in areas known as preserves which are easily accessible to the lurcher men.

Hare coursing advocates frequently quote Quercus, the Belfast University research body as confirming that “Irish hares are 18 times more abundant in areas managed by the Irish Coursing Club than at similar sites in the wider countryside”. The clubs effectively advertise the presence of significant numbers of hares in their so-called preserves, with the result that poachers know exactly where to find and kill them.

If the poachers were to seek out hares without the benefit of access to these semi-captive creatures on coursing club property they would find it far more difficult to locate them given the low hare density across the island. The coursing club preserves have become virtual death traps for hares and may be hastening the decline of the species.

We have sent a circular to all TDs and Senators, urging our politicians to address this issue. We believe that legislation and/or appropriate ministerial action is urgently needed to prevent coursing clubs from 1) netting hares for their baiting fixtures and 2) otherwise interfering with the hare population and playing directly, if unwittingly, into the hands of unscrupulous poachers and criminal gangs.

Claims by coursing clubs and by Irish Government Minister Tom Hayes that cruelty has been eliminated from hare coursing are belied by the reports filed by wildlife rangers attached to the NPWS AND video evidence captured at numerous hare coursing events in Ireland. Here is some of the footage:


…End of statement…

* Hare coursing activity is a menace to nature reserves, as the following reports demonstrate:

Wicklow People:


Fined €150 for hare coursing at wildfowl reserve
A SOUTH Wicklow resident has been fined €150 for hare coursing at
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve.

John Connors, of Croneyhorn, Carnew, was fined €150 by Judge William
Earley at Wexford District Court last week.

The prosecution was brought by Castlebridge Gardai who witnessed the
greyhounds being set on hares at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve last May.

Speaking after the case, Dominic Berridge of Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
said that coursing is a serious problem.

'We have been having a problem with people coursing hares for a while
now, so much so that it may even be responsible for a local decline in
hares over the past few years,' said Mr Berridge.

' The Gardai were very supportive and we are grateful to them for coming
out so quickly and dealing with the problem. This is the first success
for our new security plan and the Gardai have promised to continue their
support,' he said.

Mr Berridge pointed out that hare coursing on the North Slob, The Raven
and the former islands of Begerin and Middle Island is illegal under the
Wildlife Act as the areas concerned are excluded from all coursing
licences and Open Season Orders. 'As this case clearly shows those who
break the laws will be pursued in the court of law,' said Mr Berridge.


Sligo Today:


Sligo hare-netting allegations - Dept. investigation underway: Claims that hares were netted on two west coast islands last year without the permission of the landowners are being investigated by the Department of the Environment.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports said the hares were netted on Oyster island off Sligo and Hog island off Clare in breach of Section 44 of the Wildlife Act.

It said documents obtained by it under the Freedom of Information Act from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, showed that in last October, 39 hares were netted from Hog island for Killimer Kilrush coursing club.

Other documents showed that in December 2009, 34 hares were taken from Oyster island for use by the Tubbercurry/ Kilcreevin/ Ballymoe coursing club.

The council said that when it contacted the owners of the islands, it was informed that permission to take the hares had not been given in either case.

“Furthermore, we were informed that in the case of Oyster island, the Rosses Point gardaí instructed the hare netters to leave the island on December 16th, 2009, and recorded 47 hares taken by them in contrast to the club’s figure of 34 hares,” it said.

In a statement the Department of the Environment said it was investigating the cases identified by the council.

The department said while it had issued the Irish Coursing Club with their licences to capture hares for the 2010-2011 season, the Minister can still apply sanctions against individual clubs if it can be proven that they breached conditions of the licence.


Irish Independent:


Farmer guilty of hunting hares without a licence as coursing club is fined €300

A FARMER and chairman of a well-known hare-coursing club has been found guilty of trapping endangered hares without a licence.
Brendan Farrelly, who holds hare coursing meetings on his land, was found guilty yesterday of hunting 18 hares without a Department of Environment licence.

Farrelly's club, the Westmeath United Coursing Club, was convicted and fined for the same offence at Killucan District Court, Co Westmeath.

Farrelly (58) and the coursing club were acquitted of a separate charge of injuring a young hare that was captured without a licence.

The court heard how rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) called to Farrelly's farm on August 31, 2006, and found two compounds containing a number of hares.

Ranger John Mathews told Judge John Neilan that one of the hares was in such a poor state that it was unable to move and had to be removed and destroyed by a vet.

The court heard how the Westmeath club's licence to hunt wild hares was not due to come into effect until the following day, September 1.

When questioned by rangers at his home at Riverdale, Raharney, Co Westmeath, Farrelly said he did not have a licence and insisted that the hares had only been caught the previous day.
Wildlife ranger Triana Finnen told Judge Neilan that in her experience the hares at Mr Farrelly's farm appeared to have been in the pen longer than one day and that it was unlikely that such an amount of hares could have been trapped in a single day.

Defending counsel for Farrelly and for the coursing club, Stephen Byrne, said there was not sufficient evidence to show that either of his clients had caused injury to the hare.
Judge Neilan dismissed the second charge against both defendants but upheld the charges of hunting without a licence under the Wildlife Act of 1976.

He fined the Westmeath United Coursing Club €300 and ordered them to pay €175 expenses to the NPWS.
Farrelly was found guilty of the offence of hunting hares without a licence but the judge took the offence into consideration, having fined the club.


Meath Chronicle:

5th October, 2011

Wildlife Service hails first illegal coursing convictions in county

The first convictions for illegal hare coursing in the county has been hailed by the Parks and Wildlife District Officer.
Last Wednesday, 28th September, at Navan Court, three men pleaded guilty to coursing without a licence and were each fined the maximum €1,000 on two charges while a third resulted in the Probation Act being applied.

The conviction of the two Galway men and a Louth man for the offence at last February at Danestown, Balrath, is the first of its kind here, according to Dr Maurice Eakin of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which is based at Kilcarn, Navan.

"This is the first case ever taken to the courts in our district (Meath, Louth and Dublin)," said Dr Eakin.
"Illegal coursing is particularly prevalent in the northern and middle parts of Meath and Louth, as the large, flat fields are perfect for the lurcher dogs.

"Getting all the evidence needed to prosecute is difficult and luck plays a big part. More often, we chase them around the countryside and, on one occasion, follow them to the border.

"This is first time I've ever heard of a judge imposing a maximum penalty for a wildlife crime. Illegal hare-coursing is considered to be one of the most grievous wildlife crimes by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)," he added.

Coursing is licensed under the Wildlife Acts (1976 and 2000) to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) and, as a condition of this licensing system, hares netted for coursing are released back into the wild. Illegal coursing occurs when men with lurcher-type dogs hunt the hares in the open countryside. The hunt continues until the dog catches and kills the hare or the hare escapes.

"Local staff of NPWS were delighted to be able to assist An Gardai Síochána in bringing the present case against the three defendants to a successful prosecution outcome. They were particularly encouraged by the attitude of Judge Patrick McMahon and the imposition of heavy fines," said Dr Eakin.

Now sadly missing from the island nature reserve...
Now sadly missing from the island nature reserve...

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