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Concern over plan to kill deer blamed for Killarney car accidents

The red deer, unique to Kerry, is one of two species due to be targeted in next month’s cull.

Image: Shutterstock/Matt Gibson

A NATIONAL CONSERVATION group has questioned plans to cull deer in Killarney National Park.

The National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) confirmed today that it intends to kill old and infirm deer to keep numbers in the park under control.

The move follows complaints over the growing number of deer said to be involved in fatal car crashes in Killarney.

Next month’s cull will target lowland red deer, a species unique to Kerry, as well as Sika deer, a non-native species, a spokersperson told TheJournal.ie.

The spokesperson said it is not within the capacity or remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – which licences hunting of Ireland’s deer population – to either cordon deer into specific areas of land or erect a fence around the park, as some local councillors had proposed.

Unease

But the plan is a cause of concern for the Wild Deer Association (WDA), which says a cull should only be undertaken following the completion of a census of deer population – something the NPWS claims it lacks the resources to do.

“Red deer have existed in Killarney for over 6,000 years and are widely regarded to be of international importance as a unique subspecies of red deer,” said deer manager Damien Hannigan of the WDA.

Hannigan told TheJournal.ie that other measures to reduce road crash numbers – including road signage and fencing – should be considered along with cull targets.

“Driver behaviour is also believed to be a significant factor in the cause of road traffic accidents involving deer,” he added.

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Hannigan said that he believes illegal poaching has reduced the number of red deer in Killarney to “a dangerously low level” in recent years and that he fears an indiscriminate cull could endanger the species’ genetic purity.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said that the overall objective of the cull will be to “retain the maximum numbers of mature, middle-aged animals within the population”.

The red deer population in Killarney is of “national conservation significance”, the spokesperson added.

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Catherine Healy

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