Agriculture, Food and the Marine | To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent, if any, to which he and his Department have studied the health of the national deer herd with a view to correlation with outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent, if any, to which he and his Department have studied the health of the national deer herd with a view to correlation with outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
While wildlife are an important element in the complex epidemiology of bovine TB transmission and badgers are the primary wildlife focus in the bovine TB eradication programme.
Research carried out on TB in deer in Ireland had found that in certain areas where there are high densities of deer, cattle and badgers living alongside each other, the same strains of TB can circulate between them.
Where significant outbreaks of TB occur in cattle, and deer are suspected of playing a role – typically in areas with high densities of deer – a sample of deer carcases is examined for evidence of the disease.
Studies carried out by my Department suggest there is no correlation between the presence of bTB in cattle and the presence of deer and similar studies have reached the same conclusion in Scotland, where despite having an estimated population of over 800,000 wild deer, the country has been officially bTB free since September 2009.
In 2020, 130 deer samples were submitted to my Department’s Regional Veterinary Laboratories, three of which tested positive for TB.
In 2021,125 deer samples were submitted, of which 12 were positive for TB. Of these 15 positive animals, 10 were from County Wicklow and one each from Counties Cork, Tipperary, Galway, Wexford and Kilkenny.
In relation to wider issues of wild deer management and control, it should be noted that a recent peer-reviewed report highlights that good deer management can help reduce the spread of potentially infected wild deer by carrying out informed data led culls annually to reduce wild deer numbers and maintain them at sustainable levels.
I have asked my officials to work with their colleagues in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to establish a stakeholder discussion body to follow up on the work of the Irish Deer Management Forum. This new stakeholder group will be established in the coming months.
In addition, my Department is funding research on deer ecology in Ireland. This project, which is being carried out by scientists in UCD, will help to provide an evidence base for those considering wild deer management issues.
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