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Hunting / Shooting




Hunting game and other wildlife is a popular activity in Ireland. Hunting enthusiasts actively propagate game species and control their predators to maintain their sport.
At times, certain species needs to be controlled in the interest of public health and safety and to prevent serious damage to agricultural crops and livestock. Hunting can also be a necessary tool in controlling species such as deer, which have no natural predators in Ireland.

Hunting protected species is controlled under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012 and those same laws restrict and regulate the methods of trapping and taking of non-protected species.

In the Wildlife Acts  the word "hunt" means stalk, pursue, chase, drive, flush, capture, course, attract, follow, search for, lie in wait for, take, trap or shoot by any means whether with or without dogs, and includes killing in the course of hunting and kindred words shall be construed accordingly.

All wild birds and most of our wild mammals are protected under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012



Hunting / Shooting Crimes

All wild birds and most of our wild mammals are protected under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012; accordingly
Without the correct and valid licence, permission or derogation granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, it unlawful to:

  • Hunt, capture or kill any wild bird or protected wild animal

  • Hunt game species during the closed season

  • Hunt any wild bird, wild mammal or protected wild animal by means of a trap, snare, or net, except those which are approved under the Wildlife Act 1976 (Approved Traps, Snares and Nets) Regulations 2003

  • Hunt any wild bird, wild mammal or protected wild animal by means of line, hook, arrow, dart, spear or similar device however propelled or any electrical device which is calculated or likely to cause death, unconsciousness or bodily injury to such mammal

  • Hunt or injure in the course of hunting any wild bird with a repeating or automatic shotgun (other than a repeating or automatic shotgun which is adapted or modified so as to render it incapable of carrying more that three shotgun cartridges), with a pistol or revolver, or any firearm fitted with a silencer device

  • Hunt or injure in the course of hunting with a rifle (including a gas-rifle or an air-rifle) any wild bird

  • Hunt or injure in the course of hunting with a shotgun a protected wild animal other than a hare otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence or permission granted in that behalf by the Minister

  • Hunt by means of any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying bait

  • Use any live wild bird or live wild animal which is tethered or confined in a cage or pen or which is maimed or injured for the purpose of hunting, repelling or scaring any wild bird or any wild animal

  • Use any kite, light trap, balloon, aircraft (including model aircraft) or similar device for the purpose of hunting, repelling or scaring wild birds or wild animals

  • Use a stuffed or artificial decoy in the form of any bird for the purpose of hunting any wild birds, other than woodpigeons, wild duck and wild geese

  • Use an electrical or other instrument or appliance (including recording apparatus emitting sound) for the purpose of hunting any wild bird or any wild animal

  • Hunt or disturb for the purpose of hunting any wild animal by means of mechanically-propelled vehicle, vessel or aircraft, whether it is being so propelled or is stationary

  • Hunt or disturb for the purpose of hunting any wild bird by means of mechanically-propelled vehicle, vessel or aircraft while it is being so propelled

  • Hunt a woodcock at any time between sunset and sunrise or hunt any other wild bird, other than a wild duck or a wild goose, or any protected wild animal in the period beginning one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise

  • Hunt any wild bird or protected wild animal using any lamp, light, torch, mirror or other artificial light reflecting or dazzling device or any sighting, image intensifying or other device for night shooting

  • Where a person is not the owner or occupier of land or some other person entitled to enjoy sporting rights over the land, it is unlawful to:
    • Hunt a wild bird or wild animal with a firearm or other hunting instrument or device on the land
    • Enter on the land for the purpose of so hunting wild birds or wild animals
    • Carry on the land any firearm or any net or other weapon, instrument or device capable of being used for hunting a wild bird or wild animal
    • Shoot over the land
  • without the permission either of the person who is the owner or the occupier of the land or, in case some other person is entitled to enjoy sporting rights over the land, that other person.

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Gun control primary legislation:

  • the Firearms Act Firearms Act, 1925 – 2009 as amended (Firearms And Offensive Weapons Act, 1990)
  • the Criminal Justice Act 2006 - 2007
  • the Control of Exports Act 2008
  • the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009

Secondary legislation:

  • the Control of Exports Order 2005
  • the Firearms (Restricted Firearms and Ammunition) Order 2008 with a 2009 amendment
  • the Firearms (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 2008

Under The Firearms Act (1925), Section 2
It is illegal for any civilian to use, carry or possess a firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate which correctly specifies the owner, the weapon, the ammunition and its maximum permitted quantity.

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Crossbows, spearguns and all airguns with a muzzle velocity of over one joule (including paintball markers) are legally considered firearms and have to be licensed

Spearfishing may be done using free-diving or snorkeling. Spearfishing while using SCUBA or other artificial breathing apparatus is illegal

It is illegal to hunt using a crossbow  

CS gas spray, pepper spray and stun guns are all totally prohibited in this country.  Importation or possession of any of these items is illegal

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Reckless endangerment

  • A person who discharges a firearm being reckless as to whether any person will be injured or not, shall be guilty of an offence, whether any such injury is caused or not (Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990)


  • The shooter needs to be more than 60 feet (18.2 meters) from any road or dwelling, and shooting away from the direction of the road or dwelling

Residential/public area

  • You may not discharge a firearm in or from a public place e.g. a road or public park etc
  • Possession of a realistic imitation firearm in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse is an offence

 Transporting firearms

  • During transport, firearms must always be stored in a case/sleeve, out of sight in a locked vehicle boot
  • Firearms should not be immediately accessible to the driver or any passenger
  • No gun should be loaded with ammunition while travelling to or from a shoot
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What can be shot with an air rifle?
All wild birds and most wild mammals are protected in law and it is not legal to shoot them. However there are species that may be shot (including with an air rifle) but only to protect public health and safety or prevent serious damage to crops.
If you see someone shooting at birds, the shooter must be able to prove that the bird is a risk to public health and safety or is damaging a crop and that all other means of solving the problem have been tried before resorting to shooting.

An air rifle used in a garden or residential area to shoot birds is therefore almost certainly being used illegally no matter what species are being targeted

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Sett Disturbance

Applications for LICENCES from NPWS are made to:
Wildlife Licensing Unit,
National Parks and Wildlife Service,
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,
7 Ely Place,
Dublin 2 
Email: wildlifelicence@ahg.gov.ie
Tel: (01) 888 3242

Firearms Licences or ‘certificates’ are issued by An Garda Síochána
Contact your local Garda Station for details

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Recording evidence at the Crime Scene

Crime Scene

Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.

If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

Before you do anything else it is very important that:

You do NOT put yourself in danger by approaching anyone you suspect of committing a crime – they may be violent and/or aggressive.
You do NOT touch any dead birds or animals. They may be poisoned baits or victims of poisoning. Many poisons (e.g. Carbofuran) are extremely dangerous to us as well as wildlife in even very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.
You do NOT disturb the scene by walking around unnecessarily - small pieces of evidence (cigarette ends, footprints, the marks left by a spade etc) may be lost or trampled into the mud or grass.
You do NOT move any items at the scene - unless asked to do so or an animal or human"s welfare is/may be compromised by leaving it at the scene.
You do NOT mark the site (e.g. with a white plastic bag) Although being able to see a marker from a distance might sound like a good idea, it will also alert an offender that someone has been at the site and they might go back and remove evidence.
You do NOT do anything illegal yourself - leave crime to the criminals!

Once sure that it is safe to do so:

Record the date and time
Record the transport Do this as soon as possible, as suspects can be traced from the registration number
Photograph/write down any vehicle registration numbers that are or might be related to the incident. It is legal to record a registration number if you suspect that the vehicle has been or may be used in a crime.
Record the person
Recording the offender’s face is important of course, but their clothing, the bags they’re carrying, the equipment they’re using are all important too.
Record the scene
Take photographs or video of the scene using a mobile phone or camera etc (or make as accurate a sketch as possible).

If possible try to cover any items, perhaps with vegetation, to make them safe; but make sure you don’t disturb the crime scene in the process!

If photographing an object, try to put something beside it for scale (e.g. a coin or notebook) providing it won’t disturb the crime scene.
Record the location
It is particularly important to record locations accurately (apps that provide GPS data are available for most smartphones)
In an urban area note the address or a description of the location. In the countryside take wide angle photographs of any landmarks; a tree, a distinctive fence line, a hill.
Even if in doubt take a photograph and email it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service nature.conservation@ahg.gov.ie  


Reporting a hunting / shooting crime

To report suspected illegal hunting activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000

For contact numbers of your local NPWS Conservation Ranger and Regional Manager click HERE (Any problems with that link click HERE)


If you can’t reach NPWS personnel call An Garda Síochána:

If the crime is in progress or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112
If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (click HERE for station directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111

[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]

If there is an injured animal involved, also call a wildlife rehabilitator / vet from the contacts page of

Irish Wildlife Matters

If you witness any hunting crime, also contact

National Association of Regional Game Councils

If you witness any deer hunting crime, also contact

Wild Deer Association of Ireland


For more information on reporting and how to follow up on a reported crime click HERE