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Ban sought on shooting of female deer in Kerry

Ireland’s only native deer herd down to 500 in numbers, from a high of 700 deer 10 years ago.

A young buck in Kerry
A young buck in Kerry
Image: mozzercork via Flickr/Creative Commons

IRELAND’S ONLY NATIVE deer herd is declining sharply in numbers, according to conservationists, who are calling for an imposition of a shooting ban on Kerry hinds (female deer).

The Kerry Deer Society, which brought the Red Deer back from the brink of extinction 40 years ago, says that they are united with hunting groups in seeking the ban. There is already a ban on shooting stags.

“It’s illegal to shoot the deer in the National Park but not outside, where we are looking for the ban,” Noel Grimes, Chairman of the society, told TheJournal.ie.

Killarney National Park is 26,000 acres in size. But deer often stray out of it, where they can be shot. Numbers are now down to 500 from a high of 700 deer 10 years ago he says, a great improvement from the situation in the 1960s, when numbers fell to as low as 80, but still a worrying fall. According to Grimes:

The deer we have in Kerry are they last of the indigenous red deer in the wild. Their genetics can be traced back 5000 years. They are unique to this country. For the sake of the deer and our heritage, we must protected them.

Kerry Red Deer were introduced to Ireland 5,000 years ago by ancient people from Britain during the Neolithic people, according to a report released earlier this year by a multinational team of researchers from Ireland and abroad. Comparing the DNA of ancient deer bone specimens with more modern ones, they found that the Kerry Red deer are descendants of these ancient deer. The majority of deer in Ireland are non native Sika deer.

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