A nationwide deer cull would be welcomed, the Chair of Wicklow Deer Management Partnership has said as he described the situation as "out of control".

It comes after Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said he agreed with the need for a cull of deer across the country.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Pat Dunne said Wicklow has around 40% of the deer population of Ireland but added that it is hard to put a figure on the exact number.

"We welcome the fact that it is now being recognised at last as we have been saying for a long time that the deer population is out of control," Mr Dunne said.

"The density is too high and that is causing a huge amount of problems."

The number of deer in Wicklow could be over 100,000, Mr Dunne said.

"There is no real way of putting figures on the numbers that are here in Wicklow.

"We have heard 45,000 mentioned and over 100,000 mentioned, nobody knows for sure.

"It is definitely out of control and has been for a long time," he added.

Stags have been getting shot during hunting season, Mr Dunne said, adding that there is "too large" a population of female deer in the county.rte n

Speaking on Morning Ireland yesterday, Minister Ryan said: "We have a big issue with deer right across the country, in restoring biodiversity, which is critically important.

"There is a major problem we have with both deer, particularly deer and goats, grazing so that no young trees can grow.

"We do need to mange the deer population."

When asked whether culls need to take place, Mr Ryan said, "yes".

However, an animal rights campaigner has called for Mr Ryan to "back off" Ireland’s wildlife.

John Carmody described Mr Ryan's view as "short-sighted and unscientific", saying culling and hunting animals is never a solution.

In a statement, he said: "It has been proven time and time again never to be effective in dealing with the reported problems of deer and goats in the wild.

"As humans, we have already ransacked and destroyed natural environments everywhere, and have driven species to extinction - culling and hunting animals is never a solution," he added.

Public consultation on deer management

Last month, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Heritage Darragh O'Brien launched a new public consultation on the Government's Deer Management Strategy.

It is gathering views on key issues relating to deer management in Ireland, the impact of increased deer numbers on issues such as forestry, biodiversity, road safety and animal health and welfare.

Launching the consultation, Minister McConalogue said: "For agriculture as well as our nature ecosystems, it is important that we are aware of the need for the sustainable management of our national deer population. These include the protection of biodiversity, newly planted forestry, pasture and crops, road safety, animal health, public health, and not least the health and welfare of the deer themselves."

Mr O'Brien said deer are an important part of Ireland's natural and cultural heritage, and added:

"They have benefitted in recent decades from protection under the Wildlife Acts and their number and range has been increasing. This expansion in deer numbers can bring challenges for landowners and for biodiversity.

"The management of deer in Ireland has many facets and it is important that all stakeholders have an opportunity to feed into the process. Minister McConalogue and I encourage everyone with an interest in deer in Ireland to take part in this survey."