‘Not long before there's a tragedy’ as concerns raised over rise in deer population 

Data shows 44,381 wild deer were culled nationally during the last full culling season as populations increase
‘Not long before there's a tragedy’ as concerns raised over rise in deer population 

Cllr Pat Hayes says he has been inundated with calls about deer and is concerned a tragedy will occur. File picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

Deer populations have got out of control and are causing danger on the roads as well as being a disease risk for farmers, according to a county councillor. 

Clare County Councillor Pat Hayes said he has been inundated with calls from locals about the animals and has voiced concerns that a “tragedy” will occur where someone is injured.

This time of year marks the end of the breeding season for deer in Ireland, which begins in September, with the season often resulting in traffic accidents involving deer as males go in search of females.

“I’m a part-time farmer myself and every morning I look out and I have a herd of deer, about 20 of them, in my field at times," Mr Hayes told NewsTalk.

“When I speak to my colleagues and friends and farmers in the community, they’re all in the same boat. 

Stags are out on the road running up and down; it’s not long before there’s tragedy over this where someone will be seriously injured.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Irish Deer Commission PRO Damien Hannigan said: “The breeding season is typically the end of September to the end of October, but it does carry on into November.

“That, combined with the shorter days, means we tend to see a kind of an increase in road traffic accidents at this time of year involving deer.” 

Mr Hannigan added that forestry or mountainous areas are particular hotspots for deer at this time of year, especially at dusk and dawn.

Breeding season

“Typically what happens in the rutting or the breeding season is the male has gone searching females and they kind of lose their perspective on the roads, or observation when crossing roads," he said.

Clare is one of several counties in Ireland with high populations of deer, though the exact number that roam the country is unknown.

Recent data from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) shows 2,140 wild deer were culled during the last full culling season in Co Clare, the seventh-highest county deer cull in Ireland, with 44,381 deer culled nationally. 

“No count has been undertaken for a number of reasons. They’re quite difficult to see and they live in quite remote areas so the practicality of it is quite difficult," said Mr Hannigan.

“There's no scientific data behind this, but we have seen since Covid-19, and restrictions that followed, that deer management wasn't seen by the Government as an essential service at the time.

“Most recent statistics from the National Parks and Wildlife Service says there were over 44,000 deer culled in Ireland under licence in the 12-month period up to the end of 2020.” 

He added that there was already a “significant cull” taking place, with reports of deer populations having risen in recent years due to pandemic restrictions and the subsequent drop in the price of venison.

Landowners in Clare or anywhere in Ireland can apply for a permit under Section 42 of the Wildlife Act, which allows them to cull deer outside of the normal hunting season if they’re causing genuine crop damage.

Twelve landowners in Co Clare requested section 42 permits from the NPWS to cull deer outside the regular culling season (September 1 to February 28) due to crop damage from wild deer, from a national total of 563 permits in a 12-month period.

There are 5,838 licensed deer hunters in Ireland, 57 of whom have an address in Co Clare, however hunters from neighbouring counties also travel to the county to cull deer.

In September, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine reported that 82% of respondents to an online survey agreed that managing deer, including culling, is necessary.

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