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Deer cull begins in Killarney National Park to manage red and Sika herds

The cull will continue until mid-March.

Image: Shutterstock/Matt Gibson

A SECTION OF Killarney National Park and Killarney Golf Course has been closed to the public to facilitate a cull of deer in the area.

The closure is set to continue during a culling programme which will last until mid-March.

Around 900 red deer – one of Ireland’s oldest mammals – now live in the Killarney area, along with around 500 Sika, according to estimates last year.

Their numbers have increased so much that they regularly roam the main roads at Ross and near St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of Killarney town.

Collisions with cars as well as damage to woodlands has led to calls for culls in recent years.

Local representatives and bereaved individuals claim that deer roaming onto the road from the woodlands are responsible for at least two fatalities on the N72.

But the red deer are also an important tourist attraction in the town and are much liked by regular walkers in the area.

Representatives of deer management bodies are also being asked about animal welfare issues with a cull at the very end of the hunting season, when stags lose their antlers, the deer are in poor shape after winter and females are heavily pregnant.

Questions have been raised about whether pregnant hinds were being shot. 

Meanwhile, the closure signs by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which were placed at a number of entrances to the park on Wednesday, warned of extreme danger with “deer shooting in progress”.

The cull is being carried out by trained National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers.

Marksmen are concentrating on red stags, and seeking to avoid the females because these will now be in calf, according to sources.

A cull is also underway of the upland red deer herd which is based in the Muckross and Mangerton areas.

Further closures of the Demesne area of Killarney National Park between 6am and 11am are planned in the coming weeks for further culls.

The total numbers culled up to August of last year in Killarney was 270, including both Sika and red deer.

The Irish Deer Commission said that although a cull is needed in Killarney, it must be done in a manner that has full regard for animal welfare.

“Carrying out a cull at at close of the legal culling season when females were heavily pregnant and stags were in poor condition is not best practice,” Damien Hannigan of the commission said.

About the author:

Anne Lucey

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