A report has found that landowners in Wicklow are facing significant agricultural and economic losses from the grazing of valuable grassland by deer.
The final report from a deer management project which took place in the county over the last three years was published by Wicklow Uplands Council on Thursday 9 March.
The Wicklow Deer Management Project looked at identifying the potential losses of grassland yields due to grazing deer and the prevalence of TB as a result of recent rising populations.
Following a series of grassland measurement trials, the report found that grassland yields were significantly lower where deer had been grazing.
One field test involved the use of grass cages and comparisons were made with grass yield inside the cage versus outside the cage.
Differences in yield were found to range between 10% to 35%.
A TB testing pilot was carried out in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture veterinary section.
TB was found in over 16% of the suspicious deer samples sent for testing. However, Wicklow Uplands Council has said that these results do not represent a prevalence of TB, but are rather an indication of a diagnostic rate at hunter level, as it was suspicious samples that were tested.
The positive samples were all found in an area of west Wicklow which is currently identified as a TB blackspot
"Nevertheless the findings did, for the first time, prove a presence of TB in deer in the west Wicklow and identified hotspot locations that merit further follow-up for disease control.
"The positive samples were all found in an area of west Wicklow which is currently identified as a TB blackspot in cattle," the council said.
Co-ordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council Brian Dunne said: "The project tested a successful framework for bringing together the various parties required to form an effective deer management unit (DMU).
"There is now a need for a longer-term, well-resourced and collaborative sustainable deer management programme in Wicklow.
The project, which operated from 2018 to 2022, was managed jointly by Wicklow Uplands Council and the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership.
Funding was secured from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.