In the absence of a natural predator, we have no choice but to cull the deer population each year, the Irish Deer Commission has said.
Publishing a new report on managing the wild deer population this morning, the Government confirmed that deer culling would continue in Ireland.
The report is from the Deer Management Strategy Group - chaired by dairy farmer Teddy Cashman - which was set up 14 months ago to examine ways of managing Ireland’s wild deer population.
The report makes 15 recommendations – eight of which it says should be implemented as soon as possible.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said he will be actioning the recommendations immediately in the new year – including changing the deer Open Seasons Order, which governs the hunting season for deer.
The Irish Deer Commission has expressed considerable concern that the report was biased in favour of “certain land use sectors" – but on Lunchtime Live IDC spokesman Damien Hannigan said some form of culling is necessary.
“In the Irish Deer Commission we very much recognise culling as a measure of controlling your numbers but it must be done in an evidence-based manner,” he said.
“It's really crucial when it comes to managing deer numbers that it's not as a result of landowner or political pressure and it needs to be evidence-based.”
Mr Hennigan said over 60,000 deer were culled in Ireland last year – a number that does not include those killed on our roads or through illegal hunting and poaching.
He also noted that because a population census has never been carried out, we still don’t know how many deer there are in Ireland or how many there are at a county or national park level.
“What we do know though is, if deer are unmanaged, a typical deer population can triple every five years in number,” he said.
“We do know that, in the absence of a natural predator, deer numbers do need to be managed and we do know that they can have a negative impact when the numbers become unsustainable.
“But equally, we would see deer as eco engineers in terms of having positive impacts on the countryside when the numbers are managed at a sustainable level.”
Mr Hennigan said we need to find a balance between the needs of farming, forestry and the wider ecosystem so we can have a deer population that has a positive impact and not a negative impact.
“I fully appreciate that the management of wildlife is a really emotive topic and that is totally understandable but it must be done in a manner that, obviously, is sustainable and takes account of the animal and welfare issues as well.”
Also on the show, animal rights activist Gerry Boland said he believes in the “fundamental rights of animals” and said we should be looking at other ways of controlling the population.
“I'm not denying that there's a problem,” he said.
“Of course there's a problem, but it's not the deer’s fault that there is a problem.”
He said there is no mention in the report of alternative methods to culling.
“Unfortunately, in Ireland, we have a situation where we are very trigger-happy,” he said.
“You know, there are over 6000 registered shooters in Ireland and they're going to be [chomping] at the bit and waiting for this to happen – because it's been very predictable what's going to happen.”
He said deer could be relocated from ‘hot spot’ areas to areas where there are currently low populations.
'It's not their fault'
He also said fencing around roadways and ultrasound deer whistles fixed to cars could prevent accidents.
“Like, who is trampling on nature here?” he asked. “It’s not the deer.
“Who has upset the ecological balance? Who has moved into their territories? You know, we're treating the deer as if they've no rights at all and it's not their fault that they've grown exponentially.
“It's largely our fault that we have allowed the situation to develop.
“We've disturbed the balance of nature completely, that is the situation.
“I don't really see why the first thing we should be doing is getting out the rifle and going into the woods or going up the mountains and shooting animals.”
You can listen back here: