'Action necessary on deer problem'
Deer poaching is not the answer to Wicklow's deer overpopulation, according to Deputy Andrew Doyle.
Last week a joint garda operation saw three men arrested as part of Operation Bambi – an operation into deer poaching.
Deputy Doyle commended the gardai for their efforts and also called for measures to be taken to reduce the numbers of deer in Wicklow through a legal, sustainable and managed approach.
'The large numbers of deer in Wicklow has led to an increase in poaching as highlighted by the Gardaí this week. Just because we have too many deer in Wicklow, we cannot condone illegal activity for personal gain.
Uncontrolled and unregulated shooting raises concerns on health and safety grounds quite apart from anything else.
'It needs to be done in a managed sustainable way through a cull carried out by competent, registered persons who are working to a sustainable programme.
'Poachers more often than not often target stags because of their higher value. However this approach will never manage to reduce the overall deer population in the county.
'Wicklow is estimated to have the highest concentration of Sitka deer in Europe, having been introduced by Lord Powerscourt from Japan to his estate near Glencree in 1859. Since then it has thrived, some would say too well, in the Wicklow uplands.
'We need to find a balance so as farming, forestry and wild animals can co-exist. As things stand we do not have that balance. There are too many deer in Wicklow and they are unduly impacting on farming and forestry in the county.
'All new forest plantations have to have deer fencing to prevent deer from eating the saplings and young trees. Deer exist in close contact with other animals such as badgers and foxes and can carry diseases such as TB in bovines. Wicklow has three times the national average for TB outbreak, the high numbers of deer in the county are partly responsible for this problem. As such they present a risk to grazing farm animals that they come in contact with.
'The structure of land ownership in Wicklow is relatively unique in the Irish context. We have a mix of private farm and forestry land, Coillte owned forests and National Parks. Deer are an important resource in Wicklow and, if they are managed sustainably, they can be of significant benefit in economic, social and heritage terms.
'However, current deer population levels are unsustainably high and they are causing economic and ecological damage. There's enough evidence gathered on deer to warrant a specific course of action for Wicklow.'