Deer Management Project

A three year project (2018 -2022) working to establish a number Deer Management Units across the county

County Wicklow Deer Management Project (CWDMP)

While estimates of the size of the deer population in Wicklow vary considerably, it is accepted that the county has the highest deer population density in the country.  This high population density can result in a range of adverse impacts including damage to conservation habitats and biodiversity; economic losses to farmland & forestry; and animal welfare concerns due to the spread of disease and the increasing reports of road traffic collisions.

The Wicklow Deer Management Project was established in 2018 in response to a Request for Tenders issued by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, for ‘The Provision of Deer Management Services in the Co Wicklow Region’. The tender sought for the establishment of at least three deer management units (DMU’s) in the Wicklow region and the development and implementation of management plans for each DMU over a three-year period*. The collaborative project was funded through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and managed jointly by Wicklow Uplands Council and the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership.

Deer Management Units (DMUs)

A DMU is defined as an area of land where landowners, hunters and other interested parties come together to manage deer in a sustainable and agreed manner in an effort to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the deer population within that area. This includes the development of a management plan.

The Project established five DMUs – two in the West Wicklow Area, one in East Wicklow and two in the South of the county.

The open sharing of information between hunters and landowners in the DMUs was critical to their success and ensured that a professional approach to deer management was followed over the course of the project. This included providing an accurate log of all culls with photos. The project also encouraged increased culling of female deer in efforts to better manage the breeding population and in instances where deer were identified as causing serious damage to crops etc, landowners were encouraged to apply for out of season deer control under Section 42 licencing.

Project Actions

In an effort to identify impacts within the DMUs, a number of initiatives were carried out with DMUs over the lifetime of the project.

One field test deployed grass cages in an effort to identify potential losses of grassland yields due to grazing deer. Comparisons were made with grass yield inside the cage vs outside the cage with differences in yield found to range between 10% to 35%. 

A TB testing pilot was carried out in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Section. The aim of the pilot was to demonstrate the usefulness of hunter level surveillance in the identification of high TB prevalence locations in deer with hunters submitting samples from deer that they considered may have TB for analysis e.g. the presence of lesions on lungs.

TB was found in over 16% of the suspicious deer samples sent for testing. It is important to highlight that these results do not represent a prevalence of TB but are rather an indication of a diagnostic rate at hunter level, as it was suspicious samples that were tested. Nevertheless the findings did, for the first time, prove a presence of TB in deer in the west Wicklow and identified hotspot locations that merit further follow up for disease control. The positive samples were all found in an area of West Wicklow which is currently identified as a TB blackspot in cattle

The full details are included within the final report which is available for download here:

County Wicklow Deer Management Project Final Report

*The CWDMP was originally due to operate for three years from 2018 – 2021. However, due to Covid19 curtailments, and extension was granted into 2022

 Deer Wicklow Mountains 
Photo credit to Chris Bolton

Contact CWDMP
Main Street,

Co. Wicklow.
Ph: 087 3410621

Pat Mellon,
Project Manager,
Wicklow Deer Management Project.