ANOTHER impassioned plea has been made to the authorities to urgently implement safety measures in areas of Killarney where deer are straying from the national park on to the main road in front of passing traffic.
It has caused several accidents – a number of which are believed to have been fatal – and fears have been expressed that more lives will be lost unless action is taken on the main Killarney-Killorglin road.
A deputation of residents from Fossa and Ballydowney attended a meeting of Killarney Municipal District Council on Wednesday to voice their concerns and to appeal for action to be taken.
Secondary school teacher Gillian Hughes, whose sister, Paula, lost her life in a collision at Fossa 23 years ago, is convinced a wandering deer was responsible.
Her sister’s toxicology results were clear, she was not speeding, she was not using a mobile phone and she was wearing a seat belt when her car careered off the road and hit a fence.
“That’s what happens when deer run out in front of you – you don’t have the time,” an emotional Ms Hughes told councillors.
She said a teacher colleague’s partner also died following a 2014 collision in the Fossa-Ballydowney area and it was acknowledged at the inquest that the presence of a deer on the road probably forced her to swerve and hit a tree.
Ms Hughes said a deer management plan was promised two years ago but no action has been taken, no flashing warning signs have been erected and roadside vegetation has not been cut backs in areas where deer are known to congregate.
She said there is a need to cut back the vegetation by 10 feet and to erect a fence inside that while crash barriers could also help to save lives
“It is only a matter of time before there is another fatality. I don’t want to see another parent going through the heartbreak my parents went through,” Ms Hughes added.
Dave O’Doherty, who works in the Liebherr Container Cranes plant, told councillors that the Fossa road is “lethal” for those that are not familiar with the threat posed by deer.
“Many of my colleagues have had near misses and I have too. There is no plan for managing the deer – there is nothing,” Mr O’Doherty said.
“They are firefighting all the time, going out and shooting 200 or 300 deer but there is no plan”.
Garda Sergeant Michael Murphy, who is stationed in Caherciveen but lives in Listry, said he frequently travels the Fossa-Ballydowney road and deer are very prominent.
He said official garda figures reveal that there were 10 material damage accidents involving deer reported in 2016 and eight cases in 2017 but the number had rocketed to 23 in 2018.
During the months of September, October, November and December of last year there were four accidents involving deer reported each month, Sgt Murphy said.
Cllr Brendan Cronin, who arranged the deputation, said the number of collisions with deer that are not reported would “fill this room four or five times over”.
He said proper flashing warning signs advising motorists of the dangers ahead were required as there are thousands of people travelling that road who are not aware of the presence of deer.
Cllr Cronin said the National Parks and Wildlife Service has to act and a proper culling of deer and the erection of proper fencing was required.
“You can’t be the owner-occupier of a property and have a couple of thousand animals running free and running wild and not give a damn about people.
“There is a real Pontius Pilate attitude of washing their hands of it but I don’t accept that anymore. It’s getting very close to an epidemic,” Cllr Cronin said.
“The deer are beautiful to look at and beautiful to photograph but they are not very pretty when they are coming through the windscreen of your car or ending up on the bonnet,” he added.
Cllr Donal Grady said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are “a law unto themselves” and it took them eight years to provide a toilet in the playground at Knockreer.
“Deer are killing people – end of story,” he said.
Cllr Maura Healy-Rae suggested that the council should seek to bring a deputation to the minister responsible to highlight the concerns raised.
“We are raising motions here and shouting and roaring about it in the media but nobody is listening,” she remarked.
Killarney Municipal District Engineer, John Ahern, said the matter has been highlighted with the NPWS on a regular basis and he welcomes any statistics that are available regarding deer. The local authority is planning a safety improvement scheme for the Fossa-Ballydowney road and while the control of deer had to be part of the plan, the fact that it is a Special Area of Conservation has to be taken into consideration.
New technology tools being considered include sensors, flashing signals and beepers that warn if deer are present on the road.
Paul Curry, Senior Engineer with the Kerry National Roads Office, said the areas where intervention is needed have been highlighted and there are plans in place but they will need to work in association with the NPWS and Fáilte Ireland which is a landowner in the area.
Options being considered include road widening and fencing and while there may be logistical considerations, Transport Infrastructure Ireland is committed to making improvements.
Mr §§§§§§§§§§§§§§§Curry said the frequency of deer warning signage would be increased immediately and the council is also to seek a meeting with the NPWS to address the issue.
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