250 wild deer culled in Westmeath

Some 250 wild deer were culled in Westmeath in the twelve month period up to February 2022, it has emerged.

Data released by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to the Irish Deer Commission show that nationally 55,008 wild deer were culled in that period. It represents a record for the number of wild deer culled, up 24% from the previous record set in 2019 when 44,381 deer were culled.

Seventy per cent of the national deer cull came from the six counties of Wicklow, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Kerry, Galway (38,526 deer), County Wicklow, an area believed to have an overpopulation of wild deer in some areas was responsible for 36% of the cull with 19,997 deer.

In the midlands, Laois (1951) and Offaly (1,400) had the highest number of deers culled, while Longford (111) had the lowest.

The Irish Deer Commission says best practice deer management requires more female deer to be culled than males, and the cull returns show the important job undertaken by licensed deer hunters with 26,216 females culled versus 22,401 males during the regular culling season. 6,751 deer were also culled out of season by the granting of permits under section 42 of the wildlife acts, with 924 permits granted by NPWS nationally, with 608 permits granted in County Wicklow alone which resulted in 4,717 deer culled.

Hunters must make an annual declaration to NPWS stating the number of deer culled by county, sex, and species, and this data is provided to the Irish Deer Commission annually. While the data is not independently verified, hunters are required to sign a declaration confirming the accuracy of the information returned.

However, Damien Hannigan a spokesperson for the Irish Deer Commission stated: “The actual deer cull is likely to be significantly higher as the cull total does not include wild deer killed illegally known as deer poaching, nor does the total include the growing number of deer killed on our roads. Over the last five years over 200,000 wild deer were culled in Ireland under licence from the NPWS and highlights the important role licensed deer hunters play in managing deer at sustainable levels to minimise negative impacts on farming, forestry, and the wider ecosystem.

“The Irish Deer Commission actively work with landowners who suffer negative impacts from wild deer, we also support the various agencies who deal with an increasing number of deer vehicle collisions on our roads through a network of trained members.”

The commission said there may be several factors for the increase in culls. It says the number of hunters licensed to cull deer has grown significantly with 6,232 licenses issued in 2022, up 17% from the previous year.

The Irish Deer Commission believe restrictions around the management of deer during the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with a worldwide crash in venison prices, delays by NPWS in the issuing of deer culling permits, poor forestry design for the management of deer, and a rapid expansion afforestation in Ireland, all have created the perfect storm for deer numbers to increase.