Following concerns over the culling of red deer in Killarney National Park, both organisations have been in talks recently with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) about a forthcoming management plan for the herd in Killarney.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Pádraic Fogarty from the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said that they would be in favour of a management plan for the entire country. He also said that they were not opposed to culling deer as a last resort for managing the herd, however it must be based on scientific evidence and a proper management plan.

We accept that culls have to take place, but on a rational basis.

“We accept that culls have to take place, but on a rational basis. The NPWS has been culling deer in Killarney over the winter. While we’re not against it, other methods should be tried first.

“We have no proper information available on the herd in Ireland. There’s little point in just shooting deer when really we don’t even know what the population is. There needs to be a census done for the whole country and a proper deer management plan put in place. The farmers would be behind us on that, “ he said.

NPWS officials confirmed that a forthcoming management plan for Killarney National Park will be developed this year in collaboration with interested parties. According to IWT, the culling of deer in Killarney is being implemented to prevent road accidents.

Urgent action needed

In Wicklow, however, the IFA has said that the population of deer is “out of control” and urgent action is needed to protect the livelihoods of farmers. Commenting on the illegal dumping of deer carcases in the Wicklow Mountains recently, county chair Tom Short said that this was further evidence of the inadequacy of the current approach to managing the national deer population.

“How many more farmers’ livelihoods are going to be put at stake and motorists’ safety jeopardised before the political leadership is shown to address what has now become a national problem, but is at its most critical in Wicklow?” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the illegal carcase dumping case shows either disregard for the health and welfare of neighbouring farm or an equally damning lack of understanding of the threat.

Two-pronged approach

The IFA is demanding a two-pronged approach to the deer problem nationally.

“Firstly, a programme similar to the Wildlife Control programme and overseen by the same people in areas where deer are associated with TB breakdowns must be established. It is no coincidence the counties with the highest densities of deer continue to also have the highest levels of TB in cattle, considering the findings of the Department of Agriculture studies which show the levels of TB in deer to be 80 to 120 times that of the national cattle herd.

“Secondly and separately, a national deer management strategy must be developed to reduce the numbers of deer to levels that are sustainable within their own natural habitat. This must be under the control of a state agency and cannot be dependent on the failed and unaccountable approach that currently exists,” the IFA said in a statement in reference to the National Deer Management Forum.

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