‘Out of control’ deer pose threat to Kerry drivers, locals say

Animals are causing ‘vast’ damage and endangering motorists, council hears

Stag deer clash antlers during the annual rut in October. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Stag deer clash antlers during the annual rut in October. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

 

The presence of an abundance of “out of control” deer is turning Co Kerry’s roads into dangerous territory for motorists, local politicians say.

Kerry County Council heard that deer have been frequently recorded bounding across roads in the Killarney area into the path of vehicles.

Far from their usual location in Killarney National Park, which is not fenced off, deer are also being found in good numbers on the roads of the Beara Peninsula and Kenmare.

Moll’s Gap on the Ring of Kerry was becoming particularly treacherous due to the presence of Sika deer, councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen (Fine Gael) told the Council’s monthly meeting.

A “deer crossing” was called for on the outskirts of Kilgarvan by Cllr Danny Healy-Rae (Independent), who said motorists and deer were in danger.

The population of large native red deer is estimated at 600 to 700 within three principal areas of Killarney National Park (mainly on higher ground above the N71 between Killarney and Kenmare), and also in the lower lands of the Demesne within the Killarney town boundary (along the N72 Killarney to Killorglin road).

Councillors believe collisions between deer and motorists are under-reported and gardaí in Killarney support the claims.

Cllr Conor-Scarteen tabled a motion at the meeting, strongly supported by Independent Cllr Brendan Cronin, calling for “the out of control deer to be tackled” by all agencies.

“It’s critically serious for motorists,” he said. “The damage to cars is not being reported.

“There was a clause in the Bourne Vincent Memorial Act (the 1932 Act which governs much of the Killarney National Park) that fences should be maintained, and protected, but it is not being done.”

Cllr Cronin, a farmer, said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the body in charge of deer, should be brought into the council chamber to discuss the problem.

He said if his animals were to wander on to the road, he would be held responsible “but there’s no care being shown by these people”.

A comment was sought from the NPWS on issues relating to deer, deer fencing and associated dangers to motorists.

Killarney solicitor Padraig O’Connell said consultations about material damage caused by deer are “vast and numerous”.

“I have been consulted in a large number of incidents within a 10 mile radius of Killarney. But there’s no situation in terms of making a claim to do with a wild animal.”

Inquest

One of the most serious charges levelled at deer in the region came at the inquest into the death of a mother of four on the outskirts of Killarney.

Susan von der Geest (47), of Reen in Killorglin, was rounding a medium to severe right bend at Ballydowney on the N72, about a kilometre from Killarney, at around 12.20pm on January 6th of last year, when her car crossed the road and careered over an embankment and collided with trees.

Ms Von der Geest died instantly. She was found in the driver’s seat with her safety belt still on, in the dense woodland of the Demesne which goes right to the road edge.

Her husband Donal Moroney made an emotional plea at the inquest to fence off the deer in the area.

Deer appeared from nowhere at the spot and he had seen them himself on occasion, he said.

Coroner Terence Casey said there had been “several accidents” and a number of fatal crash investigations had noted traces of deer on vehicles.

This weekend the coroner said the fencing, which should be within the woodland, had not been put up, although he had written to the NPWS in May 2014.

“It is still an outstanding matter as far as I am concerned. You expect deer in Muckross, but no-one expects them to come out of the woods in a built-up area,” he said.

The Wild Deer Association of Ireland (WDAI), a conservation and management organisation, refuted the claims.

Association spokesman Damien Hannigan said “there never has been a fatality due to a road traffic accident involving deer in Co Kerry, or indeed in Ireland”.

He said road traffic incidents involving deer had increased in recent years but there were a number of reasons for this, including increased traffic levels in traditional deer habitats, poor forestry design, and lack of signage and fencing.