‘This is not a cull, it’s a management programme to maintain the levels of deer’
The Department of Agriculture recently announced a three-year plan to be implemented in Wicklow to manage the growing population of deer in the Garden county. The move comes after a sharp increase of TB incidences in the county with levels now treble the national average.
Apart from the rise in TB incidences in the county, deer are causing road traffic accidents, damaging forestry and gardens and grazing pasture, according to local farmers.
“It’s not uncommon to see 15 deer grazing a field,” said Declan O’Neill, a local dairy farmer and member of Wicklow Deer Management Partnership.
According to O’Neill, the deer would graze the same amount as 15 weanlings, and he just doesn't have that to spare.
“I simply want more grass for my cows and to let them out earlier in the spring, in the current situation, I simply can’t do that,” said the dairy farmer, whose land is surrounded by forestry.
Pat Dunne, Chairperson of the Wicklow Upland Council said upland sheep farmers are ready to throw in the towel.
“Farmers can’t keep grass with the deer, they graze everything that’s there over the winter and the farmers have nothing for their animals in springtime,” he said. “I’ve seen farms decimated from the impacts of the deer.”
He also said that the novelty has worn off for homeowners and road users, who are now seeing that there is a huge problem in relation to the population of the deer. “It’s affecting everyone, not just farmers and landowners. Road traffic incidents involving deer have become increasingly regular with the growing population of deer in the county,” he said.