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deer forum

Over 80% believe national deer herd is damaging biodiversity as call for cull grows

Over 1,500 people took part in a public consultation on the issue.

OVER 80% OF respondents to the first major public consultation into the impact of deer say that the national herd is damaging biodiversity, with similar numbers complaining about damage to farm crops and road safety.

In order to tackle the problems raised by deer, 86% of the survey’s respondents said culling of deer is needed.

The public consultation, which heard from over 1,500 people, was conducted as part of an ongoing deer management strategy. 

Teddy Cashman, chairman of the strategy group, said the deer population has “gotten out of control” in some areas, including Co Wicklow.

“There has been little action in the last few years. Covid has had a big impact on the numbers of deer being managed or culled also,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The results will inform the next phase of the development of a strategy group for managing the country’s deer population.  

The forum has been launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, along with Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien.

Cashman said proposals will now have to be put to both departments to decide on what the next step would be and, if a cull is decided upon, how it would be carried out. A final report will be published in the early Autumn.

Over three quarters of respondents said there is a need for supports for landowners to manage deer is required, while 69% said a domestic venison industry should be expanded.

The main concerns regarding the impacts of deer to emerge from the consultation were biodiversity loss/damage (82%), damage to agricultural crops / grazing (81%), road safety issue (80%), preventing the establishment of new forests (71%) and a role in the epidemiology of TB in cattle (67%).

The consultation’s results come on the back of a report by The Journal this morning on how the Government has yet to take action to protect at least 40 sensitive nature habitats, some of which are in danger of overgrazing by deer.

Malcolm Noonan, a junior minster in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, said the development of a deer management strategy for Ireland is vital in our “efforts to protect and restore nature and biodiversity, particularly native woodlands”, as well as for farm crops and road safety.

“I’m mindful that its success very much depends on the ongoing commitment of all stakeholders, and as such I would like to acknowledge the broad representation and constructive input at the recent stakeholder meeting. This bodes well for the next steps in this process,” Noonan said. 

Commenting on the work of the deer management group, Minister McConalogue said:

“For agriculture as well as our nature ecosystems, it is important that we aware of the need for the sustainable management of our national deer population. These include the protection of biodiversity, newly planted forestry, pasture and crops, road safety, animal health, public health, and not least the health and welfare of the deer themselves.”

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