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Deer permit delay causes anger and damage to habitat and farming

There is considerable concern and growing frustration among thousands of licensed deer hunters and deer management groups due to a delay in the issuing of permits by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Wildlife Licensing Unit.

Approximately 5,500 permits are issued annually by NPWS to allow for the management of deer during the open deer season which runs from September 1st to February 28th.

In the absence of a natural predator, it falls on man to maintain deer numbers at sustainable levels and to reduce any negative effect they may have on farming, forestry, and the wider ecosystem. While unverified, data released by NPWS show that 41,148 deer were culled by 5,515 licensed deer hunters in the 12-month period up to February 28th, 2019, highlighting the important role carried out by licensed deer hunters.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Irish Deer Commission said:

“While we sympathise with the challenges caused by Covid-19 for NPWS in the issuing of permits, we have engaged with NPWS in good faith since June while representing our members regarding the potential permit issues caused by Covid-19, however, we have been left frustrated and dismayed by NPWS inability to engage and adapt.”

Photograph – Co Kerry Red stag credit Peter O’Toole

Photograph – Co Kerry Red stag credit Peter O’Toole

The spokesperson also said, “frustration among deer hunters has been compounded as applicants adhered to a post Covid-19 deadline of June 30th set by NPWS for the submission of permit renewal applications and a commitment that permits would be received in advance of the open season on September 1st however it now appears some applicants who met the NPWS deadline will not receive their permit for several months, or not at all, this is completely unacceptable in our view and a new approach to the delay is required urgently.”

"The permit delays along with a worldwide crash in the demand for venison due to Covid-19, will mean far less deer will be culled resulting in increased damage for foresty, farming and the wider ecosystem."

In recent days TD’s David Stanton and Jennifer Murnane O’Connor put a series of parliamentary questions (details below) to Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD on behalf of the Irish Deer Commission regarding the ongoing delays in the issuing of permits under section 29 of the Wildlife Acts, Open Seasons Order for Deer 2020/21 which begun on September 1st.

Minister O’Brien confirmed the delays were due to Covid-19 and “technical challenges” that arose from staff working from home. The Irish Deer Commission had called for the introduction of an online application process as is used in most other government departments which would greatly speed up the issuing of permits, Minister O'Brien confirmed that some “early work” had taken place on such a development. It was also confirmed over two thousand permits had been issued to date, from an estimated 5,500 applications. Minister O’Brien stopped short of confirming when the backlog would be cleared, what additional resources would be made available and when an online application process would be in place.

Farming organisations and other stakeholder groups have also expressed concern over the delays.