MORE than 4,000 deer hunting licences have been granted to members of the public this year, sparking concerns from animal rights activists.
John Carmody of the Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) said the licences "do nothing to conserve animals".
Some 375 licences were granted to hunt animals on public land; 67 were handed out to hunt pen-reared birds; 134 were for capturing or humanely killing protected wild animals and 60 were granted to take the nest or eggs of wild birds.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) also issued 85 licences for those looking to interfere with or destroy the breeding places of any wild animal.
Mr Carmody said: "It's out of control. It's something most people are unaware of, something no one thinks goes on behind the scenes.
"Giving out these licences does nothing to protect these animals. It's nothing short of a shame."
The NPWS said there are provisions under the Wildlife Acts allowing the minister to grant licences to capture or humanely kill wild birds or protected wild animals for educational or scientific purposes.
"Licences are granted under these provisions for the carrying out of research projects relating to protected animals. In the majority of cases they are for the capture of the species rather than the killing of individual animals or birds."