Minister reduces permits to shoot deer out of season, highlights a drop in deer numbers

The Wild Deer Association of Ireland (WDAI) has welcomed information released by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD which shows that permits to cull wild deer outside of their designated hunting season have dropped by 16% in 2011, it is believed this is a direct result of a significant drop in deer numbers nationally. Such permits are granted to landowners by the Minister under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts, to allow culling of deer where genuine crop damage is caused to farm land or forestry.

The WDAI has been to the fore in calling for a review of this process, as it is understood a growing number of permits are abused for financial gain by hunters rather than actual crop damage. The WDAI have raised these and other concerns with Minister Deenihan and his predecessor John Gormley. In 2011 Sean Fleming TD put a number of Parliamentary Questions on behalf of the WDAI to Minister Deenihan, regarding permits issued by him that included a condition allowing deer to be culled at night using rifles and powerful lamps used to dazzle deer. The Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended) provides that such a practice should be lawful only for “educational or scientific purposes” and not for culling purposes, as this practice is considered an unethical method of culling deer and creates a serious safety risk to the general public. As a direct result of this request, permits allowing the shooting of deer at night are almost non-existent with only 9 granted in 2011 compared with 108 in 2010 – of the 9 granted 3 were to Coillte and NPWS staff.

The WDAI have also raised the unacceptable practice where Minister Deenihan continues to issue permits (63% of the total) allowing female deer to be culled during the months of May – August. During these months female deer have dependent fawns; if the female is shot, the new-born deer will be orphaned and suffer a horrendous death from starvation, which can take a number of weeks.

Damien Hannigan of the WDAI said: “While we support and encourage the culling of female deer as part of a proper deer management programme, to reduce deer numbers where over-population or genuine crop damage occurs. Culling females during these months when the young are still dependent, is an inhumane practice and contrary to ethical deer management. We call on Minister Deenihan to immediately cease this practice.

Following discussions between the WDAI and Paul Fletcher, a representative of the main game handling establishments, who purchase the culled deer from hunters and who have seen a reduction in deer numbers been sold to them. It has been agreed game handling establishments will no longer purchase deer culled out of season and a premium currently paid for red deer will be removed. These unprecedented initiatives come on the back of growing concerns that deer numbers are under threat in many areas in particular it is believed red deer numbers have been decimated nationally by illegal poaching and over hunting. It is hoped these initiatives will allow deer numbers to recover to sustainable levels.

Paul Fletcher of Premier Game Ltd said: “all the main Game Handling Establishments who are concerned for our national deer herds have agreed not to purchase deer culled out of season.” Damien Hannigan, WDAI, said: “we may well be culling deer faster than they can reproduce, not allowing them sufficient time to recover from unprecedented levels of illegal poaching.”

(Above information issued by Wild Deer Association of Ireland on 2 April 2012)

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