Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Wanted: Deer Hunters

Road users and wood owners at risk as populations spin out of control

Deer are causing serious harm to agricultural and horticultural crops and domestic gardens in many counties areas, in addition to posing a risk to road users
Deer are causing serious harm to agricultural and horticultural crops and domestic gardens in many counties areas, in addition to posing a risk to road users
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

If you live in Co Wicklow, you will have noticed, perhaps to your cost, that deer have become a major hazard on the roads there.

Wicklow is not alone, however, and deer numbers are increasing rapidly throughout the country wherever there are wooded areas.

This is a serious issue and while we do not yet have proper figures for Ireland, according to records from Britain, up to 74,000 deer may be involved in traffic accidents there annually.

In many counties in Ireland, in addition to posing a risk to road users, deer are causing serious harm to agricultural and horticultural crops and domestic gardens.

The damage they cause to woodland has already been well documented and has been estimated to be as high as €3,800/ha in some of the worst affected areas.


At the recent launch of a report commissioned by the Wicklow Deer Management Group, it was stated that, because deer have no natural predators, their populations have expanded well beyond sustainable levels and they are now at the top of the 'wild' food chain.

However, if managed properly they can be a valuable resource. Venison is in great demand and the income generated from sporting interests can be considerable.

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This management cannot take place without the co-operation of all interested groups and a co-ordinated approach is essential.

There must be collaboration and co-operation between Coillte, the private landowners and the wildlife and sporting interests. Otherwise the damage will continue to increase and more woodland owners will have to bear the cost.

Currently there is little co-operation between the various parties regarding management of shooting and, most importantly, to decide who shoots what and when.

Even in my own county of Meath and the adjoining county of Louth, deer numbers are increasing rapidly and the long-term financial cost is only now being fully realised.

A few months ago there was an excellent report on these issues published by Woodlands of Ireland, It is well worth getting a copy from them as it spells out clearly, in layman's language, the depth of the problems facing us and also outlines the means of dealing with it.


In addition, we now have the Co Wicklow group setting an example of what must be done, county by county, to control our unsustainable populations of deer. Once they are culled to manageable numbers then biodiversity will benefit and damage will be reduced.

When red deer were the sole species present in our woods, they did not pose a serious threat to forestry. It is only since the large estate owners, along with hunting and sporting interests, introduced other species that the real problems arose -- and this has been occurring for centuries.

The interests of foresters, woodland owners and the sporting lobby have always been in conflict but the Wicklow group is showing real leadership in finally achieving collaboration between organisations with opposing views.

They have also produced a report called "Developing a Collaborative Strategy for the Management and Control of Invasive Deer Species for County Wicklow." This rather wordy title aptly describes the content.

The Heritage Council, which part grant aided the project, has shown a great understanding of the dangers facing forest owners and road users, and the threat that high populations of deer present to our woodland heritage.

Hopefully the report's content and recommendations will be acted on swiftly. Surely it is now time to stop talking. Just do it.

Many thanks to Joe Murphy and the Kildare Deer Watch Group for the photograph (above)

Irish Independent