A COUNCILLOR has called for at least 600 deer to be culled in Donegal amidst growing concerns over the hazardous conditions facing road users.
Councillor Michael McClafferty has voiced his concern over the growing number of deer in the county and is encouraging others to have their voices heard too by contributing to the recently launched public consultation on deer management.
The Falcarragh independent has estimated that the deer population in the county has reached over 1,000, and that the surging population has led to increased road traffic collisions in his constituency.
The Councillor recently called on Donegal County Council to introduce an organised deer culling policy, and said it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.
“To make an impact here, we need to be taking at least 600 deer out of the equation. If we have any hope at all of keeping them under control.
“People may see it as grotesque and animal cruelty; I can understand why they would say that but what is the alternative?” he asked.
The Councillor claims the onus is on Glenveagh National Park and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, he said both “conveniently wash their hands of this problem”.
“At the end of the day if my sheep, or my cow or my dog breaks out and goes onto the main road and they cause a smash, then I am held responsible.
“Yet we have animals in Glenveagh that are equivalent to bovine that are running free and causing smashes and damaging property without any implications- that’s not fair,” he said.
Wild deer in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) issue licences to hunt deer under the Wildlife Act 1976, and actively manages deer on its own property.
However, the NPWS does not own the deer population. Deer populations by their nature are mobile and have a home range that is not constrained by landownership boundaries, a spokesperson from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage told the Donegal News.
Cllr McClafferty said he does not accept that argument. “If you go into Glenveagh and shoot one of them, you’re shooting Glenveagh’s property, but when their deer step over their fence and walk on to the main road it’s not their problem and not their property.”
He said the problem is also “extremely serious” outside Ards Forest Park.
The Councillor added that the council need to look at how other counties manage their deer herd; he referenced County Wicklow, where they implemented an individual in 2018 to manage the ever-growing deer population.
He said the NPWS have now been forewarned to do something and be proactive. He suggested that they enter into talks with the council to thrash out possible solutions.
Deer management falls under the portfolio of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
He has acknowledged that deer have benefited in recent decades from protection under the Wildlife Acts and that their number and range has been increasing.
The Minister added that this expansion in deer numbers can bring challenges for landowners and for biodiversity.
The Minister is encouraging all stakeholders to take part in the public consultation on deer management recently announced by himself and
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.
The public consultation which is live until February 10 is being coordinated by the Deer Management Strategy Group, the aim is to gather views on key issues and to help inform the next phase of the development of the Deer Management Strategy.
This includes the impact of increased deer numbers on a variety of issues such as forestry, biodiversity, road safety, animal health and welfare and the welfare of the deer themselves.
At the launch of the consultation Minister McConalogue said he is delighted to see the group progress this important work.
“For agriculture as well as our nature ecosystems, it is important that we aware of the need for the sustainable management of our national deer population,” he added.
Cllr McClafferty also welcomed the initiative and encouraged the public to submit their views, whether they’re “good, bad or indifferent”.
He then reiterated that unless something meaningful comes out of this consultation then “we are just sitting on a time bomb, waiting for it to explode”.
Interested individuals, groups or organisations can share their views on deer management in Ireland by completing the online survey available on the Government of Ireland website at gov.ie – Consultations (www.gov.ie). Closing date for submissions is 5pm, Friday, February 10.
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