Ban urged on hunting of Kerry hinds


THE KERRY Deer Society, which helped bring Ireland’s oldest native herd of red deer back from the brink of extinction, has warned that numbers have dropped again and said a ban on licensed shooting of Kerry red hinds needed to be put in place “quickly”.

While Kerry red stags, prized by poachers for their magnificent 16-point antlers, may never be legally shot, the female of the species has long been on the open season list in Kerry.

Wild deer are protected under the Wildlife Acts but outside the national park they may be shot under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service during the hunting season, particularly where there is damage to commercial forests.

The Kerry Deer Society is a group of volunteers who managed to bring back the number of reds roaming the Killarney mountains Torc and Mangerton from an estimated 80 to more than 700 in 40 years. Its chairman, Noel Grimes, said at the weekend that numbers had dropped again and it was estimated that red deer in Kerry now amounted to just 500.

Referring to recent DNA analysis which proved that Kerry reds were the oldest strain on the island, Mr Grimes said: “The hinds we have here [in Kerry] are extra, extra special. They were taken off the prohibited list some years ago and it is time now to put them back.”

The society was very concerned about the decline in numbers, and would be formally requesting the protection of the hinds, Mr Grimes said, adding that it was licensed or official hunting that had led to the sharp decline in the Killarney reds.

He was speaking at the launch at the Malton Hotel of a brochure on Kerry deer which is being distributed in Killarney hotels and tourist outlets to raise awareness of the uniqueness of the Kerry reds, the largest mammals in this island, as well as of the non-native Sika deer.

Whereas in most parts of the country the introduced Sika had hybridised with reds, there is little or no mixing in Killarney so the Sika herd is also a pure strain.

Launching the brochure, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan referred also to the illegal shooting of deer in recent months, saying that staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service had stepped up their patrols.

Mr Deenihan also said that scientists believed “the unique Kerry red deer population ” were worthy of special conservation status.

Visitors to see the Killarney deer are warned about risks. Red stags should never be approached in late autumn when they are gathering their harem for the mating season or rut. Also, deer host Lyme disease so protection from ticks is needed when walking through vegetation in Kerry.