A deer stag with a refuse sack entangled in its antlers is proof - if it were needed - that discarded plastic is an increasing burden to wildlife.
This image of a sika stag with a black plastic bag wound around its antlers was captured on camera this weekend by Peter O'Toole, a longtime conservation ranger at Killarney National Park.
“From the bottom of the oceans to deer antlers, there is no escaping the curse of discarded plastic,” said Mr O'Toole, who has been a park ranger for almost four decades.
Rangers have come across a few similar cases in recent years “but it is not a common occurrence,” he confirmed to the Irish Examiner.
“We tend to see this during the mating season when red and sika stags thrash vegetation and other objects,” added Mr O'Toole.
In recent years we have had stags with plastic bags, ropes and wire entangled in their antlers. It possibly means that there is more rubbish strewn about today as compared to past years.
Mr O'Toole photographed the stag in Knockreer, Killarney National Park, on Saturday. Just minutes' walk away, and just a day earlier, students from all three of Killarney's second-level schools had joined forces in an impressive protest against climate change and discarded plastic.
The first, second, third and transition-year students from St Brigid's Presentation Secondary School, St Brendan's College and Killarney Community College united to spell out the word “Now” in the grounds of St Mary's Cathedral on Friday in a call to politicians to take action to prevent further climate change.
“These young people will have a vote in a couple of years. It is also a reminder to us all of our individual responsibility,” stated a spokesperson.
While the plastic is not believed to be harmful to the animal's well-being or endanger it in such an instance, the unsightly addition is “a nuisance” to the stag, noted Mr O'Toole.
“It's an inconvenience for the deer for sure,” he said.
“The animals affected may shake it off at some stage or if not will have to wait until they cast their antlers which they do every year in springtime."
Meanwhile, autumn's arrival to Killarney has been heralded with the sound of deer stags' distinctive roars in the National Park. Mr O'Toole noted: “Red stags have been heard roaring in the Muckross area of Killarney National Park, but rutting activity is low-key in other areas of the park."