The number of deer shooting licenses granted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) needs to be increased to help tackle rising numbers of Sika deer, Deputy Danny Healy told the Dáil last week.
He stated that these deer pose a risk to road safety, and maintained that this is not a problem driven by the native red deer but by the Sika, a species introduced to Ireland in the mid-1800s.
“The Government is talking about increasing penalty points and reducing speed limits, but we have to deal with this threat on our roads,” he told the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, last week.
“After all, Sika deer are only vermin and that is the truth of it. We like our red deer and do our best to maintain that herd. Sika deer are encroaching on their space.”
He said that there have been road traffic accidents involving deer where “large stags have landed on bonnets”, and he claimed the “roads in Kerry are not safe”.
Deputy Healy-Rae added that Sika deer are migrating out of national parks and areas of forestry, “many of which are State owned”.
The Taoiseach responded by accepting that animals on roads can pose risks to safety and that deer in particular could result in “very real problems”.
“There are many aspects to road safety, including car safety, the quality of roads, speeding, behaviour and education. I accept that animals on the road can be a road safety risk,” he said.
“We have a deer management forum that works between the Department of Agriculture and the NPWS. So far, 5,500 licences have been issued by the NPWS for deer hunting.”
However, on the prospect of a national deer culling programme, the Taoiseach stated that the option is not actively being pursued, but ongoing discussions through the Irish Deer Management Forum will recommend policy measures.
“We do not believe that a national cull programme is needed, but the forum will report on this shortly and will make further recommendations.”