HARE coursing and using glue-covered sticks to catch wild birds in Limavady are among a horrendous series of incidents of animal cruelty reported to police in recent years, the Sentinel can reveal.
In other parts of the North West, monkeys held captive; swans stoned by callous youths; and wild birds peppered with shot and left for dead also shocked investigators.
Sadistic thugs were reponsible for over twenty crimes against animals reported to the local PSNI over the past two years including badger baiting and the poisoning of wild birds of prey, the Sentinel can reveal.
There were at least four reports of wildlife crime made to the PSNI in the G District area in 2010.
This included the poisoning of a Golden eagle and raven in Castelderg; the suspected transportation of very young pups, possibly illegal breeds, from Londonderry to England; and unauthorised hunting on land in Eglinton with the culprits simply refusing to move on; and hare coursing in Limavady.
And there was a sharp escalation in the number of cruel acts towards animals reported last year with at least 19 reports across the entire North West.
In one instance a monkey was found to have been kept in a backyard in Strabane in April 2011. According to the PSNI a caller reported going into the backyard after hearing that a dog was barking and discovering the monkey there. The monkey then went off into a nearby field without a trace.
The incident echoed a similar sighting in Omagh in November 2010 when PSNI received a report of a small red monkey running in front of a vehicle and on towards a field.
Other disturbing incidents include reports of a man shooting crows and pigeons in Sion Mills in August last year without killing them. Five birds were found maimed and left for dead.
Equally, horrific was a report of a group of youths throwing stones at an injured swan in Strabane and a report of someone using traps and a limestick for illegally catching wild finches and siskins in Limavady. Lime-sticks are twigs, which are covered in an extremely sticky ‘glue’.
There were also reports of greyhounds chasing rabbits for sport in Londonderry and being allowed to tear them apart. Another report in Londonderry concerned a cat with its legs caught in a trap.
And also in Londonderry there was a report of a sick buzzard handed into a vet with suspected posioning.
There were also numerous reports relating to poaching along the Strabane/Donegal border which is becoming a hotbed for illegal netting.
There were numerous such instances reported in 2011 of suspected poachers lifting nets and fleeing across the border to Donegal.
On one occasion in last August there was a report of water bailiffs being attacked by men in balaclavas in Strabane as they lifted illegal nets.
Two days following this instance there was a report of a large net being lifted by Loughs Agency with trout and salmon in it.
The PSNI recorded that the suspects were foreign nationals who were hiding in foliage taking photos of the bailiffs lifting the nets.
Local police have wide-ranging powers to prosecute those responsible for animal cruelty.
Offences under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 1972 are: acts of cruelty; offences in relation to the fighting, baiting or exhibition of animals; traps and snares; poisonous substances; injured animals; and causing unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Wildlife in Northern Ireland is also legislated for within the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.
Some examples of crimes against wildlife include: taking, damaging or destroying the nest of any wild bird while the nest is in use or being built; persecution of birds of prey; badger digging; digging up, or in some cases picking, wild plants; the introduction of non-indigenous species.
However, some animals and birds can be legally shot or controlled.
The PSNI warn: “If you see anything suspicious, for example a protected bird that appears to have been poisoned or shot, you should inform the police as soon as possible.
“The police now have a Wildlife Liaison Officer with special responsibility for such matters. Very substantial fines can be imposed on anyone found guilty of these offences and, in certain circumstances, offenders may be sent to prison.”