Calls for larger deer culls after record 55,000 shot dead last year

Respondents to public consultation said animals negatively affecting biodiversity, damaging crops and causing road safety issues

The first-ever public consultation on the Irish deer population has seen a large majority of respondents call for larger annual culls than the record 55,000 animals shot dead last year.

More than 80 per cent of those who participated in the consultation process on the impact of the Irish deer population expressed the view that the animals were negatively affecting biodiversity, damaging agricultural crops and causing road safety issues.

Some 86 per cent of the 1,500 respondents said more culling of deer was needed. A large majority also believed that a domestic venison industry should be expanded.

The consultation was commissioned by the Deer Management Strategy Group, a joint initiative of the Department of Housing and Department of Agriculture aimed at tackling the issue. The group is chaired by dairy farmer Teddy Cashman.


The overall size of the deer population in Ireland is unknown because no census of numbers has ever been conducted. There are three types of deer in Ireland: the native red deer (found in Co Kerry); fallow deer; and Sika deer (which originated from Japan). The population of all three types has grown greatly in the past few decades given they have no natural predators on the island.

The largest number of deer are found in the uplands of Co Wicklow. In the latest cull, more than 15,000 deer were shot in that county alone. Some estimates put the Wicklow deer population at some 150,000. There are also large populations in Kerry, Donegal and the border regions. Deer have protected status in Ireland under the Wildlife Acts.

One of the options that may be considered would be legislative changes that could alter the status for some types of deer. Another option that will be considered is a concerted strategy to develop the venison market. It is understood that it will also be recommended that more skilled hunters and marksmen be trained to target non-protected species.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said sustainable management of the national deer population is important to protect ecosystems, forestry, biodiversity, pasture and crops. He said that such controls were important to protect “animal health, public health, and not least the health and welfare of the deer themselves”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times