Nationwide Effort To Track And Count Wild Deer

There is currently no national coordination in the collection of deer data

Herds of stray deer feasting on grass intended for dairy and beef cattle are a common sight nationwide and infuriating for farmers who depend on pasture for profitable production.

Just how important the grass is for farmers is summed up by a Teagasc estimate that if grass utilised by livestock were to be increased by one tonne of dry matter (equal to about six tonnes of growing grass) per hectare per year, the benefit to dairy farmers would be €181/ha, and €105/ha to drystock farmers.

The new bovine TB eradication strategy includes a provision for landowners to cull deer, or have hunters carry it out in the open season, subject to National Parks and Wildlife Service regulations. In the closed season, they may apply for a section 42 licence to cull deer, if there is evidence of crop damage, such as grass poaching.

First results from Smartdeer Ireland are expected to be delivered by the end of 2021. File Pic. Don MacMonagle

Trespassing deer also bring fears for farmers that they carry TB which will spread to cattle, potentially destroying herds. The up-to-date distribution or population density of the four species of deer found in Ireland is not known.

There is no national coordination in the collection of deer data. So complaints by the public about stray deer cannot be easily authenticated by government authorities.

Smartdeer Ireland is the first nationally coordinated initiative in Ireland to collect deer data, using smartphone apps and digital deer mapping surveys. It could open the way for evidence-based deer management.

It is led by Simone Ciuti, UCD assistant professor of Wildlife Biology, and is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Smartdeer utilises smartphone applications and digital deer mapping surveys to allow national deer monitoring in real-time. The team aims to conduct a baseline survey which will then be repeated annually. 

First results are expected to be delivered by the end of 2021, and a national workshop involving all stakeholders is scheduled before the end of the year.

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Stephen Cadogan – 06/09/2021)

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Rural Enterprise Skillnet

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