Accidents up as deer figures rise

THERE are regular warnings from wild deer organisations that Ireland’s deer population is declining. However, we also hear the opposite story from farmers, road users and other observers — that deer are becoming quite numerous and are now seen in areas where they have never previously been.

Deer also create traffic hazards when they cross roads and an average of 300 accidents involving deer occur on our roads annually, according to the Irish Wild Deer Association (IWDA).

Several accidents have occurred in the Killarney area, which has around 1,000 head in the national park and surrounding lands. Again, we have had recent calls for improved signage to warn drivers and fencing to prevent the animals from getting onto roads.

In some fatal accidents, cars have gone out of control and crashed into trees for unexplained reasons and the belief is the drivers may have swerved to avoid hitting a deer. The crashes have occurred on a road which deer are known to cross.

The Irish Wild Deer Association (IWDA) is supporting calls for safety measures in areas where deer have been in traffic accidents, pointing out that motorists in areas with deer populations need to be particularly vigilant at dawn and dusk and during the October breeding season.

Drivers in high risk areas are also advised to reduce speed when they see a warning sign and remain alert: they should prepare to stop and never swerve as their vehicle could hit another obstacle.

The IWDA also says that when motorists see a deer they should dip head lights, as the full beam may cause the deer to ‘’freeze’’, and they should also be aware that if a deer crosses in front of a vehicle, others may follow as they tend to travel in groups.

Damien Hennigan, of the IWDA, says there had been a significant decline, in recent years, in the number of wild deer culled by licensed deer hunters, despite a dramatic increase in the number of licences issued to hunt deer.

Cull returns from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are very worrying and consistent with reports from the association’s members, who say deer numbers have been decimated in many areas from hunting pressures and widespread poaching, he adds.

Returns show a drop in the number of deer culled in all counties and across all deer species. The cull returns do not include deer killed illegally by poachers, which is believed to be at an unprecedented level nationally.

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