Ireland's 'biggest stag' photographed in Killarney National Park

The red stag, described as an 'exceptional' beast by conservationists because of his supersize, has scared off younger challengers and has assembled a dozen hinds, or females, for his harem
Ireland's 'biggest stag' photographed in Killarney National Park

The red stag is believed to be the largest ever seen in Killarney National Park. Picture: Peter O'Toole

What is believed to be the biggest stag in Ireland, a native Killarney Red christened the 'Grand Master', has been photographed in a remote area of Killarney National Park.

Hundreds of photographers have arrived in Killarney for the annual rut, but it was a retired conservation ranger Peter O’Toole who managed to snap the giant stag on the highlands.

The red stag, described as an “exceptional” beast by conservationists because of his supersize, has scared off younger challengers and has assembled a dozen hinds, or females, for his harem in an upland area of the park. He has 21 points on his antlers, almost double the normal amount.

The stag is guarding his harem closely and the Irish Deer Commission (IDC) is appealing to the public not to go in search of him and to respect his privacy.

The Irish Deer Commission estimates the stag weighs about 250kg and stands roughly 6ft high. Photo: Peter O'Toole
The Irish Deer Commission estimates the stag weighs about 250kg and stands roughly 6ft high. Photo: Peter O'Toole

The commission said the sighting of what is being described as 'Grand Master' has caused huge excitement in the deer world.

The commission estimates the stag weighs about 250kg and stands roughly 6ft high, including his 21-point antlers, and as such is "supersize". The norm for a stag’s antlers on the lowland is about 12 points, said Damien Hannigan of the IDC

In addition, upland stags tend not to be as big as lowland stags because of feeding challenges.

“There is tremendous excitement among those of us in the deer world regarding this red stag," Mr Hannigan said.

12 females in harem

The 'Grand Master' is likely to be seven to nine years old and will hope to breed with the 12 females in his harem in the coming days.

To capture such an animal looking so alert and appearing to look straight at the photographer is unusual, said Damien Hannigan, and is thus causing a stir on social media. To date, there have been 75,000 views of the photograph posted on the IDC social media sites.

“This is a remote location. We would ask people to admire the photograph but not to go in search of him and to give him privacy,” appealed Damien Hannigan
Retired conservation ranger Peter O’Toole says he does not normally delve into wildlife photography, except during the rut. Usually, he concentrates on landscape photography.

“There have been exceptional animals in the past, including a 20-pointer. This guy deserves the title of the Grand Master. I don’t think I have ever seen one as big as this, ” Mr O’Toole told Radio Kerry this morning.

Red stags have been roaming Killarney for more than 6,000 years.

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