ANIMAL rights campaigners have criticised calls for a county-wide cull of deer.
Councillor Michael McClafferty has proposed that Donegal County Council bring about an “organised deer culling policy for County Donegal to cut down our deer numbers in a humane way”.
The Falcarragh independent said the move would be in the interest of road safety and to prevent the destruction of crops.
According to Councillor McClafferty deer have become a problem for motorists and that where he lives they can be found “up and down every back road”.
He told a meeting in Lifford, “A lot of cars have been smashed down our way, most recently a bad smash in Creeslough which we are lucky was not a lot worse. Only the driver was in a Jeep-type vehicle, if it had been a smaller car it would have been in on top of him.
“The problem then is there is no one to take responsibility. Glenveagh doesn’t want to take responsibility and they are let do what they want.”
Backing calls for a cull, Councillor Anthony Molloy said four deer have been killed in his area in the last few weeks.
“They are becoming a huge problem and a hazard to our road users,” he said.
But the Alliance for Animal Rights (AFAR) has blasted the proposal as “inhumane”. It says there is a better of way of bringing the deer population under control.
AFAR’s Bernie Wright said, “GonaCon is a contraceptive that has been used for years in America. You often see how houses there are interspersed with trees so you have deer everywhere.
“That would be the really humane solution and the only problem, which isn’t a problem really, is that GonaCon isn’t licensed here. But that could be overcome quite easily only the government doesn’t want to spend the money.
“This idea of shooting deer, parents being killed in front of their children, it’s barbaric. All animals experience fear at seeing their friends killed and dragged away.”
Campaign Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust, Pádraic Fogarty, described the shooting of deer as “pretty brutal”.
He said that while his organisation was not totally opposed to deer culling in certain circumstances, the Trust would much prefer a deer management policy.
“We don’t know how many deer we have and it is something we have done nothing about. But going out and simply shooting deer is not the solution,” Mr Fogarty said.
“We would strongly favour a deer management policy but we need to look at things like what the aim of that policy would be.
“We are not against culling deer but there is a lot that needs to be talked about before we start doing it.”
Following the passing of Michael McClafferty’s motion, Donegal County Council vowed to write to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
A spokesperson for the NPWS said that deer are protected under the Wildlife Acts and that national culls are not carried out.
National Parks and Wildlife said that the only culling done is within the state’s six national parks – Glenveagh, Connemara, Killarney, The Burren in Co Clare, Wicklow Mountains and Mayo’s Wild Nephin.
Parks and Wildlife does issue licences to hunt deer and actively manages deer on its property. But the department said it “does not own the deer population”.
A spokesperson said, “Deer populations by their nature are mobile and have a home range that is not constrained by landownership boundaries.
“Deer on any lands can be controlled by the landowner once that control is in accordance with current legislation, in this case, the Wildlife Act.”
Ireland does have an annual open season which operates generally from September 1 to the last day of February. During open season deer can legally be shot under licence and so far this year 6,000 applications have been received.
Outside of open season, landowners can apply for permission to cull deer if it is to prevent serious damage caused by individual creatures on specific lands.
“Applications are investigated by local staff to determine if serious damage is being caused and if so, the most practical method of stopping or controlling the problem.
“Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage,” NPWS added.
Last month owner of Wild Ireland in Inishowen, Killian McLaughlin, suggested that the reintroduction of wolves could be the key to dealing with the rising deer population.
But Councillor McClafferty said that idea should be a non-starter.
“Children would not be safe, workers and farmers would have no peace,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”