By Sean Moriarty
Wild deer roaming roads in the Killarney hinterland has reached crisis point according to a group of concerned residents from the Ballydowney and Fossa areas.
The group – some of whom have lost family members in fatal accidents involving deer – have being campaigning for over a year now but are growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of action by the National Parks and Wildlife Services.
Up to 10 residents called on elected members to engage with the NPWS in an effort to solve the on-going issues at Wednesday’s Killarney Municipal District meeting.
Gillian Hughes, whose sister Paula died as a result of a collision with wandering deer in 2006, led the deputation.
“It is too late for us, we have already lost loved ones but it is only a matter of time before there is another fatal accident,” she told the meeting.
The group say that fencing, vegetation clearance and electronic signs will all help prevent further accidents and deaths.
“What is the cost? What is the cost of another human life,” she said.
They believe that incorrect statistics are one of the problems. Official Road Safety Authority figures say that last year there were 99 cases of collisions involving animals in Kerry and only five of these were deer related.
Sergeant Michael Murphy of Caherciveen Garda Station, who is also a local resident, told the meeting that last year there were 23 cases of deer related incidents in the Killarney area compared to 10 in 2016. He said that the Ballydowney to Fossa and the Muckross to Ladies View areas were the worst affected in the locality.
By comparison there were four in Kenmare and one each in Glenbeigh and Caherciveen.
Local councillor Brendan Cronin who introduced the deputation to the meeting said that there’s a chronic problem with deer on the road.
“The volume of incidents not reported would fill this room five times over,” he said.
“The NPWS must take responsibility for what they own. Deer are beautiful animals but they are not very pretty coming through the windscreen.”
Killarney town engineer John Ahern said there are plans to do road realignment and footpath works in the Fossa area, but they are not progressing as fast as he would like.
However, he told the meeting that he would look at the provision of electronic signs as a matter of urgency.
“A recent meeting with the NPWS, they told me they have carried out a culling programme but I am not qualified enough to say if this is good enough or not,” said Mr Ahern. “This stretch of road is part of an overall scheme, a scheme not happening as fast as we like, but I give a commitment to advance the signage.”
The deputation also asked the Council to set up an urgent meeting with the NPWS service. The Council acknowledge that there is an issue with land ownership in the area, some of the roadside property is owned by the NPWS and some of it is owned by Fáilte Ireland.
It is understood that the NPWS do not want to put a fence around the National Park, as anything that would prevent deer from escaping would also prevent access for members of the public.
“Deer are rampant,” Mayor Michael Gleeson said. “The NPWS say that if a fence was in place and deer got out, they would not be able to get back in.”
Cllr Niall ‘Botty’ O’Callaghan, like all his elected colleagues, supported the deputation.
“This is the most important issue in Killarney,” he said. “There is an infra-red system that I have seen in America. The breaker is at a certain height so it won’t be triggered by a hedgehog or a rabbit.”