Gorse burning a suggested solution to deer problem in Wicklow

It has been suggested that the burning of gorse bushes could be a possible solution to the problems caused by deer to Wicklow farmers, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s Rural Development Chairman; Séamus Sherlock. Sherlock has called for the various involved organisations (i.e. Coillte &  National Parks and Wildlife Services) to cooperate in order to produce the most effective solution.

One of the main discussion points at a meeting between these organisations was the number of issues faced by Wicklow farmers, due to the rapidly increasing herds of deer in the eastern county. The ICSA believes that the problem has reached boiling point and must be stopped with immediate effect.

Sherlock commented:

“Tackling the issue will involve a multi-faceted approach and will potentially involve a complete overhaul of how these lands are managed by Coillte and the NPWS.
“Farmers have told me it is not uncommon to see 70 or 80 deer in a field together. One farmer planted 15ha of rape last year and close to 5ac were eaten by deer. These farmers have seen deer running from their sheds where they are eating silage left out for cattle and sheep,”.

The ICSA maintains that the number of deer on the farmers’ lands has become completely unmanageable, as these herds reportedly break down fences, eat livestock feed, and raise levels of TB reactors in cattle.

Sherlock has stated that the NPWS and Coillte have committed to helping the affected farmers. ICSA has met with Coillte CEO, Fergal Leamy and the NPWS in recent days, in order to come up with a workable solution to this problem.

“Coillte is very keen to work with us and, indeed, gave a commitment to the ICSA to find solutions to a problem that can no longer be ignored. The NPWS has also been very supportive of those facing problems.
“Both organisations have agreed to do everything in their power to find a solution to this problem.” 

One potential solution, raised in these meetings is the controlled burning of gorse. The idea behind this, is that it would stop the deer from descending the nearby mountains.

“Gorse and heather have grown wild in the meantime. The deer have not got enough to eat, so they are coming down onto farmers’ land.
Managed gorse burning could be used to solve this problem. Sheep farmers could then graze the mountain and keep the gorse and heather from taking over.
“Then the deer wouldn’t be forced onto farmers’ land in order to graze.”

The window of opportunity to carry out this gorse burning is becoming ever-shorter, due to weather conditions. Sherlock is anxious to receive the backing of Coillte and the NPWS in order to act upon this solution promptly.

Sherlock believes that the use of high perimeter fences is not viable due to the scale of the operation and the cost involved in erecting them.

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