There are some 4,000 licensed hunters, who shoot about 25,000 deer a year in controlled hunting seasons. For a “sustainable” population, it seems an annual cull of 150,000 deer would be nearer the mark. This figure comes from Woodlands of Ireland, whose expert study in 2009 computed the extensive damage not only to Ireland’s native broadleafed woods and their dependent species but also to conifer forests, where deer strip bark when other food gets short and browse young sitka spruce into valueless bushes. By its estimate, red deer increased more than fivefold in the 30 years to 2008, with a tripling of sika and near-doubling of fallow. The muntjac may be small (like a furtive, hard-to-spot Labrador dog), but, even though it was introduced only in 2006, its sightings are already widespread and raise great ecological concern. Rumours of even more introductions – of roe and Chinese water deer – are so far unconfirmed.
Warmer winters and longer growing seasons will likely further facilitate this growth. Ireland would do well to look to their old rivals to the east for some guidance on national deer management policy.
Source: Irish Times