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Mass slaughter of deer no way to protect trees

Kevin Myers (Friday, January 15) proposes the wholesale slaughter of Northern Ireland's deer to ensure reforestation as our ageing tree stock dies off.

The methods Mr Myers describes conjure up pictures of deer fleeing hordes of beaters into a killing field to be mown down in hail of bullets - totally illegal.

He characterises them as pests and devalues their contribution to the diversity of our ecology.

Northern Ireland's deer herd is estimated to be around 2,500 and between 600 and 700 are killed each year by the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and several private estates.

In addition many qualified stalkers control deer on private lands and sadly poaching is a further problem. The number of individuals who hold rifles for deer shooting is growing annually here and will presumably contribute to the control of deer numbers. Mr Myers is right that deer must be controlled, but this should be carried out professionally and humanely in line with best practice by competent hunters. Mr Myers should look into recent and further introductions of alien species of deer into Ireland. There is now firm evidence of Muntjac deer in Northern Ireland and anecdotal claims that Roe deer have been seen in the south of Ireland.

It is highly unlikely they arrived by natural expansion from an established herd. This suggests that there are individuals who are deliberately attempting to increase the deer population. This is illegal, highly irresponsible, and will lead to increased deer damage and increases the likelihood of collisions with deer on the roads.



RD McCULLOUGH

Secretary, Northern Ireland Deer Society

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