The role played by deer in the spread of bovine TB is the subject of a detailed scientific investigation being carried out by officials from my Department in collaboration with UCD, focusing on the genetic relationship between strains of bovine TB isolated from cattle, deer and badgers in County Wicklow. Previous work carried out by my officials in this area had demonstrated that the same strains were circulating in the three species in the Calary area of Wicklow. A related investigation carried out by the Calary deer steering group, which involves my officials, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Coillte and the Irish Farmers' Association, IFA, is continuing to conduct a survey of the level of TB in culled deer in that area.
In other parts of the country, there is little or no evidence of deer playing a significant role in the spread of TB in cattle, although they may be a spillover species. In any area where there are local concerns about deer and TB, my officials are willing to test culled deer for TB free of charge through the regional veterinary laboratories. In this way, if there are areas where deer may play a role locally, this can be detected.