450 deer to be culled in the Phoenix Park
Over 450 deer in the Phoenix Park are to be killed as part of a major cull of the historic herd.
Some 50 adult deer were shot in the park last week, and more culling is to take place on specified days over the coming weeks.
The current round of culling will reduce the size of the herd from 800 to about 630, according to a spokesman for the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for managing the park.
The overall objective of the cull is to reduce the herd to about 350 deer, which is regarded as the maximum carrying capacity of the park, he said.
A number of members of the public who chanced upon the killing of deer last week contacted radio programmes to speak of their distress at what they witnessed.
However, the OPW spokesman defended the manner in which the cull is being carried out, saying it was "humane" and "as natural as possible".
He said the cull had been carried out following extensive consultation with the mammal research department in UCD, which had examined the blood lines of individual deer. Individual adult deer had been identified as suitable candidates for killing, which was not carried out at random.
Culled deer are shot in the head in the wild, under supervision by a vet. "We don't corral them; we stalk them," the spokesman explained.
Their carcasses are sold and much of the meat ends up being sold in supermarkets or served up in restaurants.
The spokesman said every effort was made to ensure culling was carried out as discreetly as possible away from public view.
Fallow deer have roamed the Phoenix Park, which was set up as specifically for this purpose, since 1680. Although the current herd is healthy, traffic poses a considerable risk to the safety of both deer and drivers.
Last year, between 40 and 50 deer were killed in collisions with motorists. This is down from about 100 deaths a year in the mid-1990s, partly because roundabouts have been installed on the long, central road through the park and partly because increasingly volumes have slowed traffic.
Deer culls have taken place intermittently in the park's recent history. During the second World War, when the herd rose to 1,000 in size, up to 900 deer were shot in a six-month period in 1942/43.