Newtownabbey Council, the police and the Woodland Trust have joined forces in a bid to deter illegal hunting along the Newtownabbey Way.
The council was recently approached by the PSNI and the Trust regarding concerns over alleged fox hunting in the vicinity of the popular walking and cycle path, particularly the area around Monkstown Wood.
At the council’s Leisure Committee meeting on Monday, October 20 members voiced concerns about hunters using traps and snares in the area, and the potential dangers posed by such activity to wildlife and members of the public.
“The setting of snares, either legal or otherwise, is dangerous to both wildlife and people,” a report presented to the meeting stated. “Whilst no evidence has been found, reports have been made to the PSNI of suspicious activity within this area. PSNI officers are undertaking patrols day and night.”
Cllr Noreen McClelland described the situation as “a very disturbing development” and warned that it presented serious danger to animals and people using the Newtownabbey Way.
The council’s Director of Development Services, Majella McAlister, told the meeting that the problem of illegal hunting has “mushroomed in recent months”. But she revealed that following discussions with the Woodland Trust, officers had decided against erecting signs depicting graphic images of animal cruelty. Instead she suggested that temporary signage should be erected to make the public aware that hunting is not permitted on council land, and warning that the area is being monitored on a regular basis - a recommendation agreed by members.
Ms McAlister stressed that the council is committed to working with the PSNI to deter offenders.
Following the meeting, a council spokesperson confirmed that the signage will be erected at several points along the Newtownabbey Way next week.
Last month Newtownabbey Police appealed for information about suspected animal baiting in the vicinity of Monkstown Wood and warned local householders to keep an eye on their pets following reports of cats going missing from the Glenville area.
In response to claims of people hunting with dogs and snares, police have increased foot and cycle patrols in the area around the wood.
“This area belongs to the Woodland Trust and Newtownabbey Borough Council - no one has permission to hunt here and if local police find that this has been happening we will proactively search out the perpetrators. My team will be in the area specifically targeting this activity at all hours,” said Inspector Stephen McGuigan.
Police have appealed for anyone with information about illegal hunting to contact them on 101, or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.