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Sam Boal/
Doneraile Park

State-hired vet shot more than 150 deer in Cork wildlife park over last four years

The marksman was paid on a ‘keep-what-you-kill basis’.

THE OFFICE OF Public Works (OPW) hired a marksman to shoot and kill more than 150 farmed deer at Doneraile Park in Co Cork, one of the country’s most-visited tourist attractions.

The deer, which are kept in wild enclosures on the 400-acre estate, were shot over the course of five culls carried out in the past four years. A total of 144 deer were left in the herd at the end of 2018.

The state agency’s practice of shooting animals as a means of population control caused controversy earlier this year after it emerged that 263 deer had been shot in Phoenix Park over a three-year period.

The carcasses of those animals were sold to meat suppliers by the OPW for a total of €22,756. The matter was raised in the Dáil and attracted criticism last January and February.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act have now revealed that a marksman was also hired by the agency to shoot deer at Doneraile Park near Mallow, which attracts nearly 500,000 visitors annually.

The animals were shot by a Dublin-based veterinarian on a keep-what-you-kill basis: he received just €340 over the four years, but was entitled to retain the carcasses of the culled deer in lieu of payment.

Carcasses from culls in Phoenix Park were sold by the OPW for an average of €96 per animal in 2016 and 2017.

A total of 151 deer were shot at Doneraile Park during five culls since 2015, killing 98 sika deer and 53 fallow deer. The sex of the animals that were culled were not recorded.

Nine deer died of natural causes during the same period, according to OPW. There were 144 animals remaining in the herd at the end of last year – 60 sika, 31 fallow and 53 red deer.

Last weekend, it was reported that the minister with responsibility for the OPW, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, was committed to finding a “gentler” method of population control. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the National Animal Rights Association (NARA), who met with OPW officials in April to discuss possible alternatives to culling, said they were “appalled” that the practice was also in place at Doneraile Park.

“We are appalled to learn of yet another unnecessary deer culling going on in this country,” she said.

“We are absolutely delighted to hear that Minister Moran is taking the issue seriously and seeking alternatives… Ireland is changing for the better, and thankfully the public will no longer tolerate the horrendous slaughter of these animals just because the OPW find killing deer their preferred choice of population control.”

Doneraile Park is one of Ireland’s most-visited free-entry tourist attractions, surpassing the National Museum of Ireland and Fota Wildlife Park in terms of visitor numbers.

The property was home to Sir William St Leger, lord deputy of Munster in 1692. It remained in the St Leger family for 13 generations until it was sold to the state in 1969.

The OPW did not respond to queries regarding the culls.

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