Contract to manage Wicklow’s deer population welcomed by farmers

Farmers say animals have been ‘mercilessly’ raiding feed supplies in the area

A deer in Glendalough, Wicklow. It is unclear what the management approach will mean in terms of culling. Photograph: iStock

A deer in Glendalough, Wicklow. It is unclear what the management approach will mean in terms of culling. Photograph: iStock

 

The awarding of a contract to manage Co Wicklow’s deer population has been welcomed by farmers who say the animals have been “mercilessly” raiding feed supplies in the area.

Wicklow Uplands Council, an organisation established to support the sustainable use of the area, won the contract following a tendering process earlier this year.

It is unclear what the management approach will mean in terms of culling.

A joint statement from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Heritage, which oversaw the awarding of the contract, did not give details of the local deer population or of its ideal size.

However, it said “unsustainably high deer populations” have been an issue there for several years with effects on forestry, conservation, “agricultural objectives” and road safety, as well as “being a deer welfare issue in their own right”.

“Issues related to high deer populations frequently arise in Co Wicklow, and are increasingly of concern to a range of land managers and conservationists in the county,” it said.

The contract award, which will divide the population into three areas, was welcomed by both Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan and Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle.

In response, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said it was just one step toward what was required to deal with the problem.

“The consequences of uncontrolled deer populations in Wicklow have been felt for too long by local farmers,” said its rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock. “Grazing pastures and feed supplies are being mercilessly raided on a daily basis.”

Mr Sherlock also said that issues around TB had made for an “intolerable situation” and called for mandatory testing on culled deer.

“There is no doubt that these farmers have felt abandoned in recent years as the deer multiplied,” he said.

ICSA Wicklow chairman Tom Stephenson said there was regrettably no funding provided for professional shooters to assist with the deer management process.

“Deer numbers have risen to completely unmanageable levels and leisure shooters cannot possibly deliver an adequate impact,” he said.