Livestock farmers have slammed the Department of Agriculture for not protecting their livelihoods from deer herds which are 16% infected with TB.
Meanwhile, hundreds of motorists around the country have reported collisions with deer to the Gardaí.
Surveys by the Department of Agriculture showed 16% of deer in parts of Co Wicklow infected with TB almost a year ago.
Delays in dealing with this source of bovine TB have worsened disease problems for farmers, with a larger area now chronically affected, and unacceptable increases in bovine TB levels recorded in neighbouring counties, said the Chairman of Wicklow IFA, Tom Short.
He said the uncontrolled deer population is having a huge financial impact on farmers throughout the country, and called for the immediate roll-out of a deer management programme wherever deer are associated with TB outbreaks on farms, to be administered and overseen by the Department of Agriculture, the primary agency responsible for bovine TB eradication.
Meanwhile, public representatives say gardaí in Killarney get 70 to 100 calls per year from people reporting deer on the road posing a danger. And Office of Public Works records show that 16 deer were killed by cars in 2015 in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Minister Heather Humphreys says deer are increasing in range and numbers, and pose a significant challenge in attempting to balance the demands of agriculture, forestry and conservation.
Wild deer are protected under the Wildlife Acts, and roam freely. An Irish Deer Management Forum (IDMM) with representatives from areas such as landowners, forestry, hunting, conservation organisations, and government has been established to manage and conserve deer.
The TB issue in North and East Wicklow has been acknowledged by the IDMM, which said similar issues may exist in other parts of the state. It has ruled that where a high TB incidence has been detected in deer, the population should be reduced, on deer welfare grounds, to prevent further propagation and spread of bovine TB within deer herds.
However, IFA’s Tom Short said there has been no progress by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney nearly a year after his Department detected TB level in deer in Co Wicklow 100 times greater than the level in the national cattle population.
Official figures show that while the bovine TB herd incidence national cattle average is 2.75%, it is 12.4% in West Wicklow, and 6.3 % in East Wicklow. Submissions of deer over the past two years from farmers and hunters to Regional Veterinary Laboratories indicated very low levels of TB in wild deer, with the exception of Co Wicklow.
Routine deer culling was carried out recently in the Killarney National Park, where low land deer numbers have increased. They cannot be relocated to the uplands, and government sources say efforts to reduce the traffic hazard posed by deer will include improving sight lines for motorists, and improved deer warning signage.
Fencing the Killarney National Park to confine deer is not a viable solution. The 10,000 hectare park is estimated to have about 1,000 deer, with a further 1,000 estimated throughout south Kerry, and found also in Co Cork’s Beara peninsula.
The deer population in the Phoenix Park is maintained at 450-550.
Wild deer can be legally shot under licence from September 1 to the last day of February, depending on the species and gender of deer.
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