Sixth headless deer raises fears

AFTER a recent three-week period where the headless carcasses of five deer were found around Killarney, another similarly disfigured animal raised further fears for the safety of the species.

“The most recent deer carcass was again found with the head removed, but this time it was also found close to the other killings,” said Damien Hannigan, secretary of the Wild Deer Association of Ireland.

The latest remains were found in the Rossacroo area.

Poached for possible sale to hotels and bars as trophy-wall ornaments, the recent spate of killings underlines a marked increase in this illegal trade.

“There have been similar killings of this kind over the years, but these recent incidents happening over such a short time-period do indicate that this kind of activity is certainly on the increase,” Mr Hannigan said. “What is particularly worrying about this is the Red Deer is a unique and endangered species dating its existence right back to the Ice Age.”

Red deer are the only deer species native to Ireland but, as a result of deforestation and hunting in the 19th century, many populations became extinct. At the turn of the century there were in excess of 1,500 Red Deer in Killarney, a figure that declined to 60 in the 1960s.

As a result of rigorous protection and management by the National Park, the numbers have slowly returned to the hundreds.

“The Red deer is once again under threat, and our members in the WDAI have noted their absence from many traditional sanctuaries around Killarney,” said Mr Hannigan.

“Local people are appalled at this kind of criminal activity right on their doorstep, and particularly as the red stag in Kerry is seen as an emblem of the National Park and a very important tourist draw in itself.”

The WDAI is encouraging continued vigilance by the public.

“The public are very energised to help in any way they can to eradicate this criminal activity,” Mr Hannigan said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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