The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Concern over EU plans to classify sika as alien

Plans to classify Japanese sika deer as an invasive alien species across Europe are causing alarm among Irish deer management organisations

There are thought to be around 20,000 sika in the Republic of Ireland

Sika deer, a close relative of the red deer, were introduced to Ireland via their release at Powerscourt Estate in 1860. Following escapes into the wild they are thought to number around 20,000 in the Republic of Ireland, with around 11,000 in the UK. If declared an invasive species, sika deer would be placed on a list with a view to their eradication.

Signal crayfish and mink are examples of other invasive species in the UK (in both cases introduced from America). There are projects underway for both species to wipe them out in Britain in order to save native species such as the white-clawed crayfish and the water vole.

Sika are spreading on the Continent and causing damage to forestry, affecting livestock and posing a risk to humans in road collisions, according to a risk assessment accepted by the EU scientific forum on alien species.

Damien Hannigan of the Irish Deer Commission has called on the minister of state for heritage Malcolm Noonan to ensure an exemption is secured for Ireland if the measure is adopted later this year at European level.

“It would mean deer could be shot all year-round, resulting in significant animal welfare issues for dependent young whose mothers are shot,” Mr Hannigan said of the invasive species classification.

Will O’Meara, a stalker and ST contributor from the Wicklow Mountains, has a number of concerns about the potential reclassification. He believes we need to take a long-term and holistic approach. He said: “I fear that we don’t treat the despatch of vermin with the same respect as a licensed quarry, which sika are and should be. If sika are reclassified as vermin, will we be encouraged to use snares on them as with foxes or poison them as with rats? They’ve been here 150 years. Fallow deer were brought over here by the Normans. Are they invasive?”

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year-old title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.