Warm weather cools red deer’s passion as they break from annual mating ritual

Pic: Valerie O'Sullivan

Red deer stags in Killarney have become so “subdued” by the current spell of warm weather, they are taking a break from their annual mating ritual and can scarcely roar, let alone fight.

Unseasonably warm air from the Azores is leading the unique species to socialise rather than clash antlers, according to the Wild Deer Association of Ireland (WDAI). A “rut watch” walk among the lowland herd, scheduled this weekend by the WDAI and national park rangers in Killarney, has been called off for a week, in the hope the animals will revive.

This time of year sees stags fight before gathering their harem of hinds and making off into their own defined space in the woods and moors.

However, temperatures in the Killarney valley hit highs of 20 degrees and more all week, nine degrees above normal.

“We have been contacted by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to inform us that due to the unusual high temperatures for this time of the year, that the red deer rut has become subdued,” according to Damien Hannigan of WDAI

“Other than occasional roaring, stags that would be normally fighting each other at this time of the year are still in stag herds living happily together, with no rutting activity, said Mr Hannigan.

The walk, which was set to attract families, was to take place among the lowland herd. The upland or mountain herd on the slopes of Mangerton, where the air is cooler, are continuing as normal, and roaring is loud and continuous.

The NPWS have warned that it is best to stay well clear of stags during the rut “and one should never come between a stag and his hinds”.

The Killarney red deer are Ireland’s oldest species of large mammal, with the Killarney strain at least 5,000 years old. Brought back from the brink of extinction 50 years ago, they are now a tourist attraction, but they are also the source of complaint by woodsmen, botanists, farmers, and motorists, with claims their numbers are out of hand. A full census is awaited, with numbers estimated at anywhere between 500 and 1,000.

The WDAI says they welcome the fact a census by the NPWS is at last under way. This will provide a scientific basis to address claims about deer numbers and the need for a cull.

The number of deer in Killarney is felt to have increased, but, conservationists say they are being driven from higher ground as a result of over-grazing by sheep, gorse-burning, and other factors.

The rut watch walk at Knockreer in Killarney town has been rescheduled for October 9 at 9am. The location is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, with families welcome. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come basis.

Email wilddeerireland @gmail.com to book a place


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