‘The deer population has reached unacceptable and intolerable levels’

The deer population of Ireland has reached unacceptable and intolerable levels as they encroach further every year onto farmland, according to IFA Wicklow Chairman Tom Short.

Short said that as they continue to encroach they are damaging crops, farm infrastructure, jeopardising the health of cattle and becoming an ever-increasing health and safety threat for motorists.

Condemning the illegal dump of deer carcasses found in the Wicklow Mountains, Short said this is further evidence of the inadequacy of the current approach to managing a national deer population that is spiralling out of control.

Studies carried out by the Department of Agriculture show levels of TB in deer to be between 16 and 24%, which Short said compared to less than .2% in the national cattle population.

According to Short, the recent find of the illegal dump of carcasses proves those that claim to be managing the deer population are not capable of achieving this objective and cannot be trusted in their adherence to the legal obligations for the disposal of dead animals.

Furthermore, he said this act shows either a complete disregard for the health and welfare of the farm animals whose health status is jeopardised by the enormous bio-security threat caused to cattle by this dump or equally as damning, a lack of understanding of the threat.

How many more farmers livelihoods are going to be put at stake and motorists safety jeopardised before the political leadership is shown to address what has now become a national problem, but is at its most critical in Wicklow?

The Wicklow Chairman said IFA is demanding a two-pronged approach to the problem nationally.

“Firstly, a programme similar to the Wildlife Control programme and overseen by the same people in areas where deer are associated with TB breakdowns must be established.

“It is no coincidence the counties with the highest densities of deer continue to also have the highest levels of TB in cattle, considering the findings of the Department of Agriculture studies which show the levels of TB in deer to be 80 to 120 times that of the national cattle herd.

“Secondly and separately, a national deer management strategy must be developed to reduce the numbers of deer to levels that are sustainable within their own natural habitat.”

This must be under the control of a state agency and cannot be dependent on the failed and unaccountable approach that currently exists.

Short said farmers engaged in good faith in the National Deer Management Forum in the hope it would deliver on the promises made and objectives sought by IFA.

To-date this has not been the case, he said and that the forum represents little more than a talking shop for those with vested interests in maintaining the deer population at its current unsustainable levels at the expense of farmers.

“It is time for real political leadership on this issue before more farmers are put out of business or lives lost on our roads.”