IRISH DEER MANAGEMENT FORUM
STATEMENT ON WILD DEER IN IRELAND
30th January 2017 – UPDATED 14th March 2017
Wild deer in Ireland are part of Ireland’s natural biodiversity and are a protected species under the terms of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (as amended). The wild deer population in Ireland consists of red, fallow, sika, and hybrid deer. Muntjac deer have also been recorded in the wild in Ireland but have been declared invasive on a European basis.
Adult deer have no natural predators in Ireland (the wolf would historically have been one) so the population is kept under control by landowners, professional deer managers and recreational shooting interests.
Deer management operations are regulated by National Parks and Wildlife Service and take place within specific seasons.
The Irish Deer Management Forum was appointed in 2015 to deal, in a coordinated way, with a range of issues that had become of concern to people and organisations in Ireland. At that time chief concerns included:
• Wild deer grazing on spring pasture destined for sheep and cattle
• Wild deer involved in road traffic collisions
• Poaching of wild deer
One of the most difficult issues dealt with was the emergence of deep concerns by farmers in Wicklow on the density of deer in the county and strong suspicions that wild deer were contributing to the continuing high level of Bovine TB reactors in cattle in the area.
Against this background the Irish Farmers Association asked the Department, (prior to the establishment of IDMF) to identify if wild deer may be a vector for the transmission of the disease to farmed cattle.
In order to establish the levels of bTb in the wild deer herd, the Department initially sampled 103 deer carcases within the Wicklow East area, on lands on or adjacent to 33 cattle herds that had experienced recent serious bovine TB problems. The area that samples were taken from totalled 5.3% of the total Wicklow East area and lay within 4 District Electoral Divisions close to Roundwood.
Of a sample of 103 deer, 16 animals tested positive for Mycobacterium bovis. Of these,
• 5 animals showed evidence of being tuberculous to an extent that they had gross lesions and would have been likely to infect other animals they came into close contact with,
• 2 tested positive for Mycobacterium bovis, showed no signs of lesions when examined but may in time have gone on to develop lesions and to present a risk to other animals,
• 9 had localised tissue samples that tested positive, but were considered to be at low risk of affecting other animals.
• All animals taken in the first sample were Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)
A second sample of 30 deer (which comprised Sika Deer with a small component of Fallow Deer) was examined in a second part of Wicklow East with 23 carcasses showing no signs of infection, 4 showing gross lesions, 1 showing no lesions but testing positive for M.bovis and a further 4 that had local tissue samples testing positive but at low risk of infecting other animals.
IDMF received a presentation from the Forum’s farming representatives and acknowledged their levels of concern about the economic future of milk and beef farming operations in the area.
Whilst the data refers to parts of East Wicklow, many farmers believe that levels of bovine TB in deer may be similarly high across the county.
The IDMF considered this data and recommended that in the interest of deer welfare a programme to reduce deer density should be designed and undertaken in the Calary Area in Wicklow within prescribed seasons and measures. This programme is in the process of being designed by a working group convened by the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service with input from IDMF and the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership. Local farmers and hunters have been invited to a meeting about the project. A local coordinator has been appointed. The aim of the programme is to reduce the density of deer (specifically sika deer (Cervus nippon) in the area.
1. There is presently no conclusive evidence of a link between the strain of Bovine TB in cattle and the strain in the wild deer herd.
2. IDMF has requested strongly to the two Departments that a causal link must be established if any cull measures other than on the grounds of deer welfare are proposed.
3. Levels of Bovine TB in deer within the Calary area cannot be taken as representative of levels anywhere else in Ireland or even of anywhere else in County Wicklow.
4. The population of wild deer in Ireland or of any of its counties is currently unknown as are the trends in population. However, the tables below give an indication of deer management activity county by county.
5. During the rut or mating season the number of deer crossing roads increases.
6. Selection of sampling deer Bovine TB levels in the Calary area and second test area was carried out as Bovine TB problems had been experienced within farm livestock in these areas. The testing methodology used was far more detailed than that used for livestock so levels cannot be compared directly.
7. Management of a wider range of interactions between wild deer and humans are also being considered through IDMF in the country as a whole. These include deer grazing pastures that have been set aside for cattle and sheep; damage to farm crops and forest and woodland plantations; damage to some nature reserves; and road traffic collisions involving deer, these will be addressed throughout 2017.
IRISH DEER MANAGEMENT FORUM
Appointed jointly in March 2015 by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – now Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)
For more information see www.idmf.ie.
Deer Management In Ireland – A Framework for Action published by DAFM and DAHG in 2015 may be downloaded from the IDMF website.
Recommendations issued by the Irish Deer Management Forum from its inception to December 2016
IDMF Recommendation 1
Deer and TB Calary County Wicklow
1. On the grounds of deer welfare, both Departments should work with landowners, land managers, hunters and wildlife interests to reduce both the density of deer (namely Sika- Cervus nippon) in the Calary area of County Wicklow and the high incidence of Bovine TB infection within the deer herd in that area.
2. Further to Point 1 above, an independently facilitated Deer Management Group (DMG) should be established amongst key stakeholders. The group should develop and coordinate the implementation of an appropriate deer management plan for the area of the study.
3. Tom Shortt (IFA) has agreed to convene a TB in deer subcommittee of the Forum to provide integrated guidance and advice on such a plan from IDMF members and other experts, in conjunction with the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership.
4. The Irish Deer Management Forum considers that the high incidence of BTB in the Calary area of County Wicklow may be a localised issue. Until further studies are conducted these results should not be taken as an indicator of BTB levels within deer elsewhere in Ireland.
5. Members of the Forum are concerned that in other areas of high incidence of BTB in cattle there may also be infection within the deer herd and research should be directed by the Departments to a small number of other areas in consultation with the Forum.
6. The Forum considers however that if deer and cattle share feeders for example the potential for transfer exists and this should be avoided through implementation of improved hygiene measures at feeding stations. An additional potential infection pathway may also exist where the disposal of infected offal and viscera, arising from hunting of deer is not disposed of in a hygienic and secure manner, and is made available to scavenging by wildlife and further potential infection of both wildlife and cattle. Strict hygiene protocols should be introduced for the safe disposal of such material, where hunting takes place.
IDMF Recommendation 2
Mandatory Certification of Hunters
1. “That the IDMF recommend to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine that Certification of Competency from an accredited source in knowledge of wild deer species, disease recognition, management, culling and safe methods of control, together with marksmanship and safe usage and storage of firearms, be a mandatory requirement before the grant of a licence to hunt wild deer; and that mandatory certification be introduced on a phased basis over a five year period commencing on the 1st day of January 2018 for existing holders of deer hunting licences, and with immediate effect from the same date for all new applicants for deer hunting licences”.
IDMF Recommendation 3
National Database of Deer Hunting Returns
A new database, which is in the current NPWS charter, is required. This would comply with current EU legislation and be more effective and efficient for license holders in addition to assisting the administration of the system by NPWS staff.
The greatest obstacles to upgrading are:
• Resources — a budget is required to develop and implement the new system
• Staff shortages — the Wildlife Licensing Unit have lost a number of staff in recent years who have not been replaced
An efficient online system would significantly reduce time and costs spent on paperwork and internal communications with regard to individual licences and returns. It would also lead to a more reliable dataset with respect to numbers of deer shot, which is critical data in relation to the management of the national herd.
The following recommendations with regard to a modern, online system would be:
• A unique ID number for all license holders on a swipe card with photo ID which can be used to renew the license online.
• A tagging system similar to that used for livestock – Tags can be issued with the ID and carcass numbers
• The onus would be on the license holder to submit accurate returns as failure to do so
• should result in fines and/or the license being revoked.
• Legislation, i.e. the Wildlife Acts and Data Protection requirements need to be addressed
• before an online system is developed and implemented.
• Environmental data such as the location where the deer was shot, species and sex, will give
• considerable added value to the information supplied.
• A license fee should be considered to defray costs associated with the administration of