Licenses to shoot protected red deer in the vicinity of Killarney National Park are being sold to American hunters for “substantial sums”, it has been claimed.

The practice has been slammed as “an abuse of our national heritage” by the Wild Deer Association of Ireland (WDAI), the national body for deer management and conservation.

In recent weeks, both the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs and management in the Killarney National Park have been given detailed reports of at least one instance where a Killarney red stag was shot by a tourist who said he paid thousands of euro to a commercial company for the experience.

The red stag was shot out of season when a permit issued to a landowner under strict conditions, was allegedly obtained by a commercial company, it is alleged.

The stag was shot on October 7 near the National Park, and park management was warned that a second Killarney red stag was being lined up in the following days.

The hunter, who was staying in Kenmare, paid €5,000 to a commercial company to shoot a “Kerry mountain red stag”. The hunter believed he was acting legally and — accompanied by a guide — shot the stag on private land.

The permit was issued to a local landowner, who then nominated a hunter to cull the stags. The allegation is that this hunter was a guide working for a commercial hunting company.

The Wild Deer Association has written to Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys, stating it opposes “the sale and abuse of our heritage” and protected wildlife species.

Killarney red deer are a unique subspecies and of international importance. From near extinction in the early 1970s, when numbers had fallen to just 60 animals, they have since recovered and are now estimated at somewhere between 600 and 700 animals.

“There is no open season for culling red deer in Co Kerry,” WDAI spokesman Damien Hannigan said in a letter to Ms Humphreys.

“While we sympathise and regularly offer advice and support to landowners who suffer genuine deer-crop damage and do not object to the promotion of tourism from hunting or shooting, we strongly oppose such abuse of your heritage and protected wildlife species.”

As well as seeking the withdrawal of all Killarney red deer shooting permits, his association is seeking a meeting with the minister.

Because of previous abuse of licences to cull red deer “for financial gain”, a commitment was given by the department that only its staff would be allowed shoot the red stags and hinds, when necessary to do so, said Mr Hannigan.


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