Locals fear for the future of swan population at scenic tourist site

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

CONCERNS have been raised that the scenic sight of swans at the tourist attraction of Lough Gur could become a thing of the past after a swan was savagely killed by a roaming dog at the lake.

CONCERNS have been raised that the scenic sight of swans at the tourist attraction of Lough Gur could become a thing of the past after a swan was savagely killed by a roaming dog at the lake.

While the incident took place last year, fears are escalating that the incident could happen again and wipe out the swan population at the lake which now stands at two.

Locals are particularly concerned about the danger posed by roaming dogs who are not kept under control by their owners.

“Last year there were eight cygnets and they had grown up to be fairly big - they weren’t just little chicks. One by one they were reduced,” said local man Bill Hayes who says he witnessed one of the cygnets being “savaged” by a Weimaranar - a brown hunting dog - in front of his eyes.

“It was straight in front of me. Of course I was upset about it,” he said.

Mr Hayes, who enjoys spending time at the lakeside writing and taking photographs, says he raised the issue with a number of bodies at the time but a year on, he says, he hasn’t received adequate assurances that action will be taken to ensure the incident doen’t happen again.

The swan couple, he says, did not have a family this year, “probably because the nest was disturbed” and have mostly moved for safety to the far side of the lake along with the mallards.

“But when feeding becomes scarce they will be enticed back with bread which is against the rules as posted. People will throw objects into the lake for dogs to retrieve and also hurl things among the birds which are then attacked by the retrieving dogs,” he explained.

Another local resident who did not wish to be identified has called on Limerick County Council to erect a large dedicated sign at the lake entrance to control and “hopefully eradicate” the problem of roaming dogs.

“I think a sign, just as you go in the main gate to the lake, on the right hand side - at eye level, would do the trick and cost a minimal amount. This needs a dramatic dedicated sign, inside the main gate,” said the concerned resident who said that it does “seem ridiculous” to warn people about ‘pooper scoopers’ and not warn them to keep dogs on leash at all times.

The resident has also suggested that the new sign should include a telephone number for the lake-going public to report violations of the code, and an email address.

According to the concerned resident, he has contacted Limerick County Council and has been told that signage at Lough Gur has been upgraded recently and it is still a work in progress.

It is understood that a full time caretaker who had been on site in the past and who was in a position to encourage compliance with the site regulations, has since retired and has not been replaced due to restrictions on public service employment.

Maintenance of the site is now carried out by an external contractor who does not have a full-time presence on the site.

A spokesperson for Limerick County Council was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.