Demands from farmers for increased culling of deer received a timely boost this week, following confirmation that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is to launch a new online application service for hunting licences.

The new service is currently being tested and the NPWS aims to have it operational for the 2024/25 hunting season, according to correspondence with stakeholders.

Farmers claim that a surge in deer numbers over the last five years has contributed to the increased incidence of TB in cattle. This is particularly the case in counties with significant hill and mountain areas or large forestry plantations.

The farm organisations have called for deer herds to be culled to counter the upsurge in TB. However, hunters claimed that difficulties in securing licences to shoot deer were limiting culling efforts.

The NPWS’s initiative now aims to streamline the application process for hunting licences by moving it online.

Applications will be made through a dedicated customer portal, with licences being issued online.

In addition, applicants are no longer required to have secured permission to hunt from landowners with a minimum of 100ac of land.

Similarly, hunters will no longer have to provide written landowner permission to support their licence application.

Hunters will be required to include a photograph with their application and sign a declaration verifying that they will only hunt on land where they have permission.

They will also have to upload a firearm certificate and/or proof of a firearm purchase, and sign a declaration that they are compliant with the minimum firearm requirements when hunting deer.

Reacting to the changed licence application process and the prospect of increased deer culling, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said it was “essential to get a structured approach to address the unsustainable deer population in the country”.

Meanwhile, Ger O’Brien of the Wild Deer Association of Ireland welcomed the move towards more streamlined licence applications.

However, he said “proper consultation” between the NPWS and hunters was required before the new system goes live.