Thursday, 12 November 2015
I thank Deputy Ó Fearghaíl for raising this matter. With regard to Killarney National Park, every year, as part of the ongoing management of deer populations within the park, deer numbers need to be reduced. It is intended to commence culling later this month once the rut has finished. This work will be undertaken by qualified and competent National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel of my Department. The proposed cull is no different from what has happened in previous years.
I recognise that the red deer of Killarney National Park and the surrounding area are of national conservation significance and that the subject of culling is emotive. There is a significant challenge in attempting to balance the demands of agriculture, forestry and conservation with the need to ensure that deer populations occupying the same land resources are managed at sustainable levels and in a responsible and ethical manner. My Department routinely carries out localised deer counts on State lands such as in Wicklow and Killarney national parks. I am aware that deer species are increasing in range and numbers. Where appropriate and depending on the count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls need to be carried out to ensure deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences.
Park rangers, during their normal daily duties, often take spot counts of deer on the lowlands. Sika deer numbers are not out of control in Killarney National Park and are at much lower densities than can be found in Wicklow National Park. However, the National Parks and Wildlife Service would like to further reduce the numbers of this non-native species. While red deer numbers have not significantly increased in the uplands of the park, lowland numbers have increased and these deer are highly visible. Unfortunately, given that deer cannot be herded like domestic animals, it is not possible to relocate them from the lowlands to the uplands.