THE future of Kerry's Red Deer herd looks a little more secure after Minister Jimmy Deenihan issued a ban which prohibits the hunting of the female of the species for the coming season.
Last week's (October 17) edition of The Kerryman highlighted concerns raised by the Wild Deer Association of Ireland ( WDAI) regarding the survival of the county's Red Deer herd whose numbers were at a "dangerously low" level "due to illegal poaching and over hunting".
WDAI spokesman, Damien Hannigan, commenting on the most recent discovery of a headless red deer carcass in Mangerton Hole area of Baurearagh, south east of Kilgarvan, said the situation was at "crisis point" and he called on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to "step in and act before it's too late".
Last year, six stags were mutilated by unscrupulous trophy hunters while two Sika stags, minus their antlers, were discovered recently on a roadside in the Ballyvourney.
Now, in an effort to increase Red Deer herd numbers, Minister Jimmy Deenihan has issued a ban prohibiting the hunting of female red deers. The ban comes after the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and WDAI informed the Minister that numbers of Red Deer had been rapidly declining in recent years and will mean it will be illegal to hunt female and male red deer during Open Season which begins Thursday, November 1. "Kerry Red Deer are a unique feature of our heritage. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department has been monitoring red deer in Killarney National Park (KNP) and has recorded a significant decline in red deer density in recent years. I have, therefore, decided that, in order to conserve the special lineage of red deer in Kerry, to prohibit the hunting of these unique species," the Minister said.
Compliance of the initiative will be monitored by the NPWS, while Minister Deenihan has also decided to commence a general review of the Open Season Order for other deer species, which hasn't been substantially changed in over seven years.
Damien Hannigan, on behalf of the WDAI, has welcomed the introduction of the ban prohibiting Red Deer hunting and has also called for an appropriate management plan to be put in place.
"In recent years, there has been growing concerns from our members, local NPWS staff and academics, that Red Deer numbers are now at dangerously levels throughout Co Kerry due to illegal hunting and over hunting," Mr Hannigan said.
"Until such time as a census of current Red Deer numbers in Co Kerry is undertaken and an appropriate management plan is put in place to ensure a balance between the survival of these unique deer and land uses, it is incumbent on us all to ensure Red Deer are not included in the Open Seasons Order," the WDAI spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Kerry Deer Society (KDS) has welcomed the reintroduction of Kerry Red Deer hinds onto the protected species list. Noel Grimes, Chairman KDS, said the move was a positive step in protecting the Red Deer from extinction.
"Following representations by the Kerry Deer Society and other concerned deer groups in the recent past regarding the decline in Red Deer numbers, it is a very positive step in protecting our heritage yet again from extinction," Mr Grimes said.
"We in the Kerry Deer Society are asking the public to report any poaching or shooting to the gardaí or NPWS conservation rangers. People and animals could be in danger from stray bullets at night. It could be your life at risk.
"A bullet can travel up to three or four kilometres if it misses its intended target," the KDS Chairman warned.