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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019
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Fallow deer killed in Phoenix Park in latest cull to control population growth

There are currently around 600 fallow deer in Phoenix Park.

Images of deer cull in Phoenix Park in January.
Images of deer cull in Phoenix Park in January.
Image: Niall Carson

TWENTY-FIVE DEER have been shot at Phoenix Park in the latest cull to control the growing population of the wild animal. 

The Office of Public Works (OPW) which manages the park hires marksmen on a number of occasions each year to shoot a section of the wild fallow deer and later sells the carcasses to game dealers. 

The cull is carried out under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Services in conjunction with the School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD, and is overseen by a qualified vet.

Signs were erected around Phoenix Park this week ahead of today’s cull. 

There are thought to be around 600 wild fallow deer in Phoenix Park and the OPW said a failure to control the population of the animal, which has no natural predator in Ireland, would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding environment. 

“If animals were not removed, food would become scarce and more animals would ultimately suffer,” a spokesperson said. 

“Without population control there would be other welfare issues such as low body fat, malnutrition and high incidence of death from exposure to cold in winter.

“Attempting to maintain too many deer within a restricted park area would soon lead to a build-up of parasites and other pathogens causing disease in the deer.

“Public safety would also be a serious concern if the population is not maintained at the current numbers.”

Fallow deer have been in the park since 1662 when the Phoenix Park was established as the Royal Deer Park.

The period between October and November is considered rutting season when mating activity reaches its peak. The cull around this time is used to mitigate a population growth with the arrival of the new fawns in the following months.

Some animal rights groups have raised concerns, however, that other methods of population control could be introduced. 

“They’re just bringing in shooters and making money off the carcasses. There should be more people with empathy for these animals to stand up for them,” Bernie Wright of the Alliance of Animal Rights said. 

She suggested using contraception as a way to stop the deer from breeding or for consideration to be given to moving the animals to bigger areas.

The OPW said there is currently “no contraceptives licensed for use in free-living deer in Ireland”. 

It added: “The Irish Deer Society,  British Deer Society and the Deer Initiative of England and Wales fully endorse humane culling as best practice in deer herd management and the OPW is an expert manager of enclosed wild deer herds.”

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