Tipperary farmer who shot swans on his land tells court he was 'left with no option'
A farmer who shot a number of swans had been “left with no option” due to the damage they were causing his business, Nenagh District Court heard.
Thomas Hogan of Kylebeg, Borrisokane, pleaded to breaching Section 24 of the Wildlife Act at Ashley Park on March 21, 2021.
Sgt Regina McCarthy told the court that a witness had reported hearing gunshots and saw a jeep on the land.
Mr Hogan was interviewed and told gardaí that the swans were “costing me a fortune”.
Conservation officer with the Irish Wildlife Services Dr Ciara Powell subsequently visited the scene and found 12 dead swans but it had been hard to ascertain how they had all died as they had been scavenged by animals.
However, she found three swans with gunshot wounds.
Sgt McCarthy said that the swans would have landed on a turlough on the land.
She outlined that Mr Hogan had said the swans had been costing his business and that there had been an increase in the number of swans arriving on the land.
“He said he had been left with no option as the swans were eating his grassland,” she said.
Mr Hogan had expressed regret at what he had done and had tried other methods to get rid of the swans, she said.
“He didn’t realise the swans were protected species,” said Sgt McCarthy.
Cross-examined by solicitor David Peters, for Mr Hogan, Sgt McCarthy said that Mr Hogan had told her it “didn’t give him any satisfaction to shoot the swans”.
Mr Peters said that the number of non-native swans on the land had “increased exponentially” over the past few years.
In his direct evidence to the court, Mr Hogan admitted shooting the birds.
He said that he rented 24 acres of land with the turlough, which covered about five acres.
He was a dairy farmer and used the grass for silage and as winter grazing for replacement heifers.
Mr Hogan said that the problem with the swans had begun about five years ago and had been “getting worse”.
“I had tried to hunt them off the field. It looked like I was going to lose a whole crop of grass,” he said.
“I regret the decision,” he said, but he would not have been able to withstand the financial implications.
“At one stage there were nearly 400 swans in the field,” he said.
Mr Hogan said that at one stage he had spread slurry in the field and the swans had left but returned when the grass shoots began growing and “cleaned it bare”.
Initially he had lost around €6,500 but that would have risen to between €15,000 and €20,000 if he lost the full crop.
“If I didn’t get feed I would have to sell stock,” said Mr Hogan.
He said that the increase in swan numbers could be traced to rewetting the bogs in the Midlands which was forcing the swans to find a new habitat.
There had always been a few swans at the turlough but the issue now was with the numbers arriving.
“I find the whole thing terribly embarrassing,” he said.
Dr Ciara Powell, conservation ranger with the Irish Wildlife Service, told the court that licences to cull certain species could be applied for but swans were a protected species and no licence to cull had ever been issued.
She said, however, that compensation, could be applied for allowing swans to graze land, but Mr Hogan had not liaised with the service.
Under cross-examination, Dr Powell said that any compensation would be dependent on giving over the land to swans.
She agreed with Mr Peters that even if Mr Hogan had applied for a licence to cull the swans he would not have received one.
Dr Powell said that while Mr Hogan had stated he had shot non-native migratory whooper swans, the three swans she had found were mute swans, which were native to Ireland.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath adjourned to case to July 15 to decide penalties.
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