OPINION: As the controversy rages over plans to cull the deer population in his home town, on public safety grounds, Killarney-based Senator Paul Coghlan argues that while imported Sika are a legitimate target, any attempt to reduce the native red deer species must be resisted
A CLEAR outline of the National Parks and Wildlife Service policy with regard to deer in both the Killarney National Park and the wider Kerry area is needed, taking into account the numbers of the two different species, namely native red and Sika.
This is particularly necessary in relation to deer encroaching on public roads, consequent accidents and damage to motor vehicles. That said, I recognise that deer are wild animals that cannot easily be fenced in and ideally should never be.
The protection of red deer as a native species is very important. While I know it is next to impossible to find an exact number of both red and Sika, it is believed that the numbers are roughly equal. I don’t think there would be an objection to a cull of Sika which is an imported species. However, a cull of the red deer should be out of the question.
The fencing of Killarney National Park would, I accept, be impossible. As we know, deer exist outside the park as well. There is no question of the road between Killarney and Kenmare, which passes through the national park, ever being fenced.
However, in view of the number of incidents that have occurred on a short stretch of the N72 between Killarney and Killorglin, there is a valid case for some limited fencing where deer have tended to cross that road.
I suggest that the fence might extend from the end of the Castlerosse Hotel wall on the western side to the roadside car park of Killarney Golf and Fishing Club. That is a very limited area.
Many of the trees along that roadside have been damaged by cars and other vehicles crashing into them as they swerve to avoid deer. The coroner has commented on that matter on a number of occasions.
If there are too many red deer in lowland areas such as Knockreer and Muckross and on the golf club property, I would suggest that they be suitably darted at an appropriate time and transported to much higher ground. I think it could be a question of a need for husbandry rather than a cull.
Red deer have existed in Killarney for over 6,000 years and are widely regarded to be of international importance as an unique species of deer.
Damian Hannigan of the Wild Deer Association has said that he believed that illegal poaching has reduced the number of red deer in Killarney to a dangerously low level in recent years. He fears that an indiscriminate cull could endanger the genetic diversity of the species.
I would not go quite that far but, I am aware that there is some illegal poaching taking place and I do not believe that the red deer have been culled to a dangerously low level.
I do not believe that the Kerry Deer Society would support any cull of red deer. Therefore I would strongly urge that any cull be confined to Sika deer.
- Paul Coghlan is a Fine Gael Senator and Government Chief Whip in the Seanad