Killarney National Park deer culled as others starve

Numbers of the unique red deer and sika are felt to be out of control in south Kerry

 Wild red deer in the National Park in Killarney. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Wild red deer in the National Park in Killarney. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A number of severely emaciated sika deer on Inisfallen Island, the monastic island in the heart of the Killarney National Park, have had to be culled, while others were found to have starved to death on the island last week.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have confirmed that 27 deer were shot in the cull carried out by rangers on the 21-acre island, after the discovery of four dead sika on the island. Around 20 remain.

Local councillor John Joe Culloty, who is a member of the national park liaison committee, said the whole ecology of Inisfallen had been destroyed by deer and he now wanted all deer taken off the island, which is home to the ruins of a significant 6th century monastery.

“Every tree that can be bark-stripped, is bark stripped because the animals are starving, and the ground is as bare as it could possibly be,” he said.

“To get the island back it needs to be kept clear of deer.”

Numbers of the unique red deer and sika are felt to be out of control in south Kerry, and lack of manpower in Ireland’s first national park is being blamed for what is widely seen as a degeneration of the woods and ecology.

Wildlife rangers, whose duties take them beyond the park to oversee other protected habitats and species now number just four– less than half the numbers previously employed in the park.

The Department of Heritage said balancing deer and forestry was challenging but it had promised to carry out culls in future “to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences”.