Fifteen red deer shot in national park during culling programme
Parks and Wildlife Service defends cull saying it was necessary to manage population
Wild red deer in Killarney National Park in Co Kerry. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
Groups of large red stags have been spotted on main roads in Killarney, Co Kerry this week while a controversial culling programme took place in Killarney National Park.
A large section of the park and a golf course were closed off on Wednesday to protect the public while trained rangers shot 15 deer under licence ahead of the end of the deer hunting season on Saturday, February 29th.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which manages the park, defended the cull, saying it was necessary to manage the deer population in the park.
It emerged late last year that a small number of deer in the Knockreer area were suffering from copper deficiency in their blood, a cause of various diseases. The NPWS said the cull was being carried out in daylight “to facilitate some further investigation” of the deficiency in the herd.
The Irish Deer Commission has criticised “mass culls” and called for a return to more considered and selective culling practices abandoned in 2009 when staff and resources in the park became scarce after the economic crash.
The commission’s spokesman Damien Hannigan said culls were necessary to protect ecosystems but that “mass culls” caused distress among the red deer herd, particularly as at the end of the hunting season anmials were in poor condition after winter and females were heavily pregnant.
“We support culling and agree [there is] damage caused by deer but we are concnerd about animal welfare issues,” he said.
Mr Hannigan believes stags seen on the Ballydowney roundabout, one of the main arteries into Killarney, put themselves in danger to avoid the cull.
The exact number of deer in Killarney National Park is not known but an estimated 900 red deer, which were almost extinct 50 years ago, and hundreds of small Sika deer now live in the Killarney area. Calls for a reduction in deer numbers, as well as the fencing off the national park, have increased.
Most of the deer shot as part of the cull have been female but stags are to be taken out in the coming weeks.
The NPWS said the national park would be partly closed next Wednesday and the following Wednesday to allow for further culls. Knockreer Demesne, Knockreer, Reen, Prospect, Ballydowney and Belleview areas will all be closed to the public between 6.30 am and 11.30 am.
“For reasons of public safety, it is important that there is no pedestrian, cyclist, vehicular or horse-drawn carriage access to these sites and we ask that members of the public heed all warnings signs,” the NPWS said.