More than 55,000 deer were killed by hunters in Ireland during the year to February 2022, according to figures released by the Irish Deer Commission.

The voluntary association promotes efforts to improve the management and conservation of wild deer.

However, the commission, which gets its figures from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), believes the actual number of deer culled may be higher.

It said official figures are based on returns from licensed hunters and do not account for deer killed by poachers and increasingly in road collisions.

The 55,000 figure represents the highest kill on record and is up 24% from the previous record set in 2019 when 44,000 deer were shot.

Deer were hunted in 20 of the 26 counties, with the highest kill in Co Wicklow, which is believed to have an overpopulation of deer. Some 20,000 animals were shot in the county.

In Tipperary, 4,770 deer were shot, alongside 3,679 in Waterford, 3,618 in Co Galway, 2,568 in Co Kerry and 2,492 in Co Cork.

Damien Hannigan, a spokesperson for the Irish Deer Commission, said hunters play an important part in deer management.

"Over the last five years over 200,000 wild deer were culled in Ireland under licence from the NPWS and highlights the important role licensed deer hunters play in managing deer at sustainable levels to minimise negative impacts on farming, forestry, and the wider ecosystem," he said.

Recently, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said a deer cull needed to take place because of the environmental damage caused by the animals.

"We have a big issue right across the country in restoring biodiversity, which is critically important," he said.

"There is a major problem ... particularly with deer and goats grazing so that no young trees can grow. We do need to manage the deer population."

However, the Irish Deer Commission said those comments were "arbitrary and unhelpful" when an effective national cull is already taking place.

The Government recently established a Deer Management Strategy Group made up of officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the NPWS and Coillte.

The group is tasked with developing a sustainable deer management strategy for Ireland.

It is currently holding a public consultation seeking views on the impact of increasing deer numbers on a variety of issues, such as forestry, animal health and welfare, biodiversity, road safety and the welfare of the deer themselves.

The consultation closes on 10 February.

According to the commission the overall population of deer in Ireland is unknown, as a census of population has never taken place and therefore calls for culls are often "ill-informed".

A number of species are found in Ireland.

Native Red Deer, the most important population of which is in Killarney National Park, Fallow deer, which were introduced by the Normans, and Sika deer, which were introduced to Ireland in 1860.