Now that’s a stag night: Deer go rutting

Visitors are flocking to Killarney National Park to see Ireland’s largest native wild animal, the red deer stags, battling for hinds during the rutting season.

The annual rut for red deer has become a tourist attraction, with large numbers of people flocking to the National Park and its precincts to see the action close-up.

Each day, visitors can be seen with cameras at vantage points, watching majestic stags round up hinds to form harems and fight off other stags.

“This has become a very big event in last four to five years, with people coming from all over Ireland to see it,’’ said Kerry Deer Society chairman Noel Grimes.

Before they ever see a deer, nature lovers hear the deep bellows of stags echoing through the hills and valleys as dominant males show off their power and indicate their availability to hinds.

Proud stags display magnificent antlers, now fully grown, and use them to beat off rivals, sometimes with fatal consequences.

The rut has now peaked, with some stags showing signs of fatigue, but there will still be action into early November, according to Mr Grimes.

There are an estimated 1,000 deer in the Killarney/south Kerry region, with a fairly even divide between the red and Sika species.

However, it is the bigger and protected red deer — believed to have been in Killarney since the end of the Ice Age, almost 10,000 years ago — that people come to see. People, however, are being urged not to get too close to the stags which can be dangerous if they perceive any obstacles in their romantic paths.

“Normally, the deer run away from people, but at this time of the year, stags can be very dangerous. There’s only one thing on their minds and anyone, or anything, that gets between them and the hinds is seen as the enemy,’’ said Mr Grimes, who advised people to use binoculars and telescopic lenses in cameras.

Also, the Wild Deer Association has issued a warning to motorists to be vigilant for deer crossing roads, especially at dawn and dusk when they are most active.

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