Deer are now so numerous in villages and towns in south Kerry that a new species of crossing is needed as motorists will have to be prepared to stop for deer, just as they do for pedestrians, said Independent councillor Danny Healy Rae.
Expert opinion is that once deer paths are established they are stuck to rigidly and used by generations of deer.
Mr Healy Rae said a deer path at the edge of Kilgarvan village, alongside the old dancehall, has been established and is in regular use.
“Every morning I go out, I see them crossing the road at that spot,” he said. “It is time we got a deer crossing alongside a zebra crossing for the deer in Kilgarvan.”
Sika are more prevalent than red deer in Kilgarvan and they cross the road to get to the Roughty River at that point. Mr Healy Rae told an area meeting in Killarney that there was a very serious side to the increase deer in the county.
As a result, he said, not a week goes by that a motorist does not have an accident, or a near-accident deer are also being mown down and left by the side of the road unless the county council picks them up.
“They have gone far beyond the Killarney National Park and I am calling for the park to be fenced, and for all deer to be tagged,” said Mr Healy Rae. He also said farmers and householders should be given grants to fence their properties as the deer were eating crops and causing financial stress to householders.
Meanwhile, since March. 130 permits have been applied for and granted to shoot nuisance deer on private lands throughout the country, according to new figures.
However, there has been a decline in those permits in recent years from a high of 500 in 2011 to 312 permits in 2014. Poaching is on the increase as well, according to the main deer conservation organisation.
The Irish Wild Deer Association (IWDA) rejected claims by some farming organisations that deer are spreading TB, and called for a proper national deer census to establish the true figures. Reports of poaching had doubled to more than 20 per week.
“We get around 600 reports a year of deer poaching on average. But the 10 or so reports a week have doubled since the recent outcry against deer,” said IWDA spokesman Damien Hannigan.
Some of the reports were very distressing and involved the hunting of wild deer with dogs, he said.
He believes the national herd of wild deer is actually down. In Killarney the highly protected red deer is being driven out of its traditional grazing lands by wild fires as well as by illegal grazing by sheep, Mr Hannigan said.
“Around 700 sheep are grazing illegally in the south and west areas of the Killarney national park. This creates pressure for the wild deer — forcing them out of the park and into the path of poachers and disgruntled farmers,” he said.
Rejecting claims that deer were out of control, Mr Hannigan said: “The number of permits requested by landowners to cull deer causing crop damage had actually fallen which indicates to us deer are not the nuisance they are said to be.”
Information recently released by the National Parks & Wildlife Service show a significant decline in the number of wild deer culled by licensed deer hunters, with 29,000 deer culled in 2014 a decline from more than 34,000 in 2010.