Photos: Balance is the key for Ireland’s last traditional rabbit hunter

Steven McGonigal is said to be Ireland's last traditional rabbit catcher, preferring ferrets, dogs, spades and nets instead of modern guns and poison. Rabbits are considered pests in the countryside for their greed of vegetation as well as their warrens interfering with buildings. Not to forget their quick breeding rate that can rapidly inflate numbers, thus damaging the countryside balance. In 2013, McGonigal’s progression from an accounting job to a full time rabbit hunter seemed only natural to him. With gardeners as well as farmers, McGonigal now has a long client-list which includes services for schools, golf courses and oil refineries.

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST 7 Photos
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Professional rabbit catcher Steven McGonigal poses for a photograph with a caught rabbit as he hunts for them at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal is said to be Ireland’s last traditional rabbit catcher, preferring ferrets, dogs, spades and nets instead of modern guns and poison. (Paul Faith / AFP)

Professional rabbit catcher Steven McGonigal poses for a photograph with a caught rabbit as he hunts for them at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal is said to be Ireland’s last traditional rabbit catcher, preferring ferrets, dogs, spades and nets instead of modern guns and poison. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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McGonigal with his dog Fudge, as he sets a net for a rabbit hunt at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal scoured the pockmarked field with a box of unruly ferrets while his dog, Fudge, sniffed out rabbit warrens. While the lurcher does his work, McGonigal covers the openings with nets before releasing a single ferret down the hole to flush out any rabbits. (Paul Faith / AFP)

McGonigal with his dog Fudge, as he sets a net for a rabbit hunt at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal scoured the pockmarked field with a box of unruly ferrets while his dog, Fudge, sniffed out rabbit warrens. While the lurcher does his work, McGonigal covers the openings with nets before releasing a single ferret down the hole to flush out any rabbits. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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McGonigal holds up the net he was using in his operation at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. While rabbits are house pets for many, they are considered pests in the Irish countryside. Their greed of vegetation as well as their warrens interfering with buildings falls out of line with the countryside balance. Add to that their quick breeding rate that can rapidly inflate numbers. (Paul Faith / AFP)

McGonigal holds up the net he was using in his operation at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. While rabbits are house pets for many, they are considered pests in the Irish countryside. Their greed of vegetation as well as their warrens interfering with buildings falls out of line with the countryside balance. Add to that their quick breeding rate that can rapidly inflate numbers. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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McGonigal applies an electronic tracking device to one of his ferrets used to chase and trap rabbits at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. In 2013, McGonigal’s progression from an accounting job to a full time rabbit hunter seemed only natural to him after a childhood spent owning ferrets, fishing and shooting. (Paul Faith / AFP)

McGonigal applies an electronic tracking device to one of his ferrets used to chase and trap rabbits at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. In 2013, McGonigal’s progression from an accounting job to a full time rabbit hunter seemed only natural to him after a childhood spent owning ferrets, fishing and shooting. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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McGonigal’s dog Fudge rolls on the grass near a caught rabbit as they hunt for pests at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. “It’s the traditional way,” McGonigal told AFP. “We don’t damage the ground, we’re not laying poisons, we give the rabbits a quick and clean death -- and that’s most important,” he said. (Paul Faith / AFP)

McGonigal’s dog Fudge rolls on the grass near a caught rabbit as they hunt for pests at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. “It’s the traditional way,” McGonigal told AFP. “We don’t damage the ground, we’re not laying poisons, we give the rabbits a quick and clean death -- and that’s most important,” he said. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Ferrets pictured in their case as McGonigal prepares for his hunt at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal believes that while the ancient hands-on method may be distasteful to some, it remains the best way to cull numbers. Lead shot from guns can taint the soil and poisons can be indiscriminate, leaving animal corpses underground with no indication of how many have been killed, AFP reported. (Paul Faith / AFP)

Ferrets pictured in their case as McGonigal prepares for his hunt at County Donegal in northwest Ireland on August 18. McGonigal believes that while the ancient hands-on method may be distasteful to some, it remains the best way to cull numbers. Lead shot from guns can taint the soil and poisons can be indiscriminate, leaving animal corpses underground with no indication of how many have been killed, AFP reported. (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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McGonigal’s technique leaves no trace and allows him to precisely measure the number of rabbits he has removed from the landscape, which he believes keeps the ecosystem and food chain better calibrated. “Nobody loves rabbits more than me,” he told AFP. “But we have to keep the balance -- the countryside is always about the balance.” (Paul Faith / AFP)

McGonigal’s technique leaves no trace and allows him to precisely measure the number of rabbits he has removed from the landscape, which he believes keeps the ecosystem and food chain better calibrated. “Nobody loves rabbits more than me,” he told AFP. “But we have to keep the balance -- the countryside is always about the balance.” (Paul Faith / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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