Killarney park in a rut

MAKING the most of the splendid autumn weather of recent weeks, large numbers of people have been flocking to Killarney National Park and surrounding areas to get a close-up view of the red deer during the annual ‘rut’, or mating season, writes Donal Hickey.

Thousands of photographs are being taken of these magnificent animals. The stags, many with awesome-looking antlers, are now in peak condition and the stronger ones will have dominated weaker and younger males before the season ends later this month. On clear frosty evenings, the roars of the stags can be heard echoing for kilometres in wooded, mountain areas.

The Wild Deer Association and the National Parks and Wildlife Service hosted a walk through the deer habitat, giving people a chance to see the deer at close quarters, with stags sometimes locking antlers and fighting for control of the hinds. Numbers of people travelling long distances to see the spectacle are increasing. However, deer experts have warned people not to go too close and to stick to roadways and pathways, as stags are very territorial at this time and might even attack people who venture too near them.

It’s also a time when so-called nature deficit disorder can be remedied. Studies show that children, and some adults, are not getting outside enough. The results include increasing obesity, a lack of concentration, some disorders and a major disconnect from nature, wildlife and heritage.

Burrenbeo, in Co Clare, has run teacher- training courses to combat the disorder, giving teachers the tools to get their classes outside and learning. Reasons for not getting out more include indoor attractions, such as TV and internet, as well as increasing restrictions on outdoor spaces, ‘stranger danger’ and parents being protective of their offspring.

Hopefully, teachers are spending a bit more time outdoors with their pupils. When the weather comes good in autumn, it can be among the nicest times of the year to observe seasonal changes. Coillte marked Tree Day 2015 recently with a series of woodland walks. Over 2,000 children from primary schools across the country took part in the walks, learning to identify trees, as well as the benefits trees provide, and connecting with nature.

In Coillte’s Curraghchase Forest Park, Co Limerick, over 500 children from seven primary schools across Limerick were brought on a loop trail through the woodland estate and were given a talk on the horseshoe bat, a resident of the park. In Avondale Forest Park, Co Wicklow, Coillte guides brought over 100 primary schoolchildren through the woodland site synonymous with the birth of Irish forestry.

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