Deer association warned NPWS about Inisfallen herd

The country’s biggest wild deer association has said it had warned the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) about the condition of deer on Inisfallen Island in Lough Lein in Killarney, Co Kerry, in December 2014, “but with no follow up”.

There has been widespread shock locally after a number of sika were found to have starved to death last week; several others were so emaciated they had to be put down. The deer are a tourist attraction in Killarney.

The discovery was made by the Killarney National Park liaison committee, which says the whole ecology of the historic monastic island is destroyed. All trees are bark-stripped and the ground is completely bare in the scramble for fodder by the desperate animals.

There are hundreds of sika in Killarney, alongside several hundred Killarney red deer. It is thought the Inisfallen herd may have swum the kilometre or so from the mainland out to the island a decade ago in search of fodder and bred rapidly. Their numbers were not controlled and the 21-acre tourist island got overpopulated.

NPWS rangers were deployed to shoot 27 of the starving animals on Wednesday of last week. Fewer than 20 now remain.

However Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Culloty, who visited the island, says all deer should be removed, to allow the island recover: “Every tree that can be bark-stripped, is bark-stripped because the animals are starving, and the ground is as bare as it can possibly be.”

The Wild Deer Association of Ireland is represented on the national deer management forum, also claims that local conservation rangers themselves raised the matter of the welfare of the animals on December 16, 2014, but again no action was taken.

“Our records show we first highlighted the issue with local NPWS conservation rangers raised the matter as a concern but no action was taken to ensure the welfare of the animals was not compromised or the ecosystem of the island damaged,” it said on Monday.

There is an outcry in Killarney and south Kerry about deer numbers, which appear to have grown hugely. Conservationists point to the complete lack of regeneration in the park’s woodlands because of overgrazing by deer and sheep. Gardaí have also raised concerns and have met Kerry County Council and the NPWS to see if fencing can be arranged.

The Wild Deer Association of Ireland denies numbers are out of control, but says a proper management plan is needed for deer in Killarney. The Department of Agriculture and the association deny deer are linked with TB spread. A total of 97 deer, mainly red hinds, were culled by rangers in March.

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