Sika deer have an illustrious history here

It is rutting season for deer this month. Hillwalkers and strollers in Glendalough Valley have been struck by the piercing sound of sika stags making a shrill triple-whistle sound as they collect their hinds (females) and hold them in a harem while they maintain dominance among their male counterparts during rutting season. A pregnant hind will give birth next June, 33 weeks after ‘unity-day’ in October!

Sika deer have an illustrious history here

Mervyn Wingfield, seventh Viscount Powerscourt, introduced Sika deer to Ireland. He purchased four sika deer, one male and three hinds, in 1860 from Charles Jamrach, a leading London dealer in wildlife, birds and shells and imported these into his Wicklow estate, which once incorporated almost 49,000 acres. The progeny spread elsewhere across counties Dublin, Kildare, Carlow and Kilkenny.

But how did this quartet of sika deer evolve into a population of 600 by the mid 1930s and nowadays to an estimated 15,000?

Lord Powerscourt sold, or gifted some of his herd in 1865 to Sir Croker Barrington, fourth Baronet of Glenstal, whose father, Sir Matthew was crown solicitor for Munster; who built Glenstal Abbey and in whose honour Barrington’s Hospital Limerick is named. Sir Croker Barrington owned an estate of 9,485 acres in the 1870s.

Another recipient of a Powerscourt sika in the south-west was Major Henry Herbert, MP for Kerry, owner of Muckross House Killarney and an estate in the vicinity of 47,000 acres.

Two stags and five hinds were introduced from Scotland in the 1890s, progeny of stock that originated in Enniskerry, to the Kerry estate of Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, fifth marquess of Lansdowne, former viceroy of India and fifth governor general of Canada, whose estate in Co Kerry amounted to 94,000 acres.

In 1870 Lord Powerscourt also gifted sika deer to Sir Victor Brooke, grandfather of Sir Basil Brooke (1888-1973) the third prime minister of Northern Ireland, whose estate at Colebrooke in 1876 comprised 28,000 acres.

Sika deer are then thought to have roamed to the woods at Baronscourt, Co Fermanagh, owned by James Hamilton on whom Queen Victoria bestowed the title of his grace the duke of Abercorn. The management of the sika herd at Baronscourt was recognised in 2014 through the conferring of the Laurent Perrier Award for conservation. The Sika then migrated to the property of the earl of Dartrey, Liberal Unionist member of the House of Lords and from all of these locations sika deer spread across Ulster.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary

Co Dublin

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