Photo: Christopher Brown


By Michelle Crean


The source and cause of an illness which is making Killarney deer sick must be identified and addressed as a matter of urgency – the Irish Deer Commission (IDC) has stated this week.

A small number of Native Red Deer were observed with difficulties walking and severe antler deformities during a recent Red Deer Rut Watch event in Killarney National Park.

While the cause of the symptoms is unknown and subject to further tests, they are consistent with Perennial Ryegrass Staggers, a poisoning by peramine, lolitrem B, and other toxins that are contained in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and produced by the endophyte fungus Neotyphodium lolii.

The condition has shown in young male deer and females with no evidence of symptoms in mature stags. Prior to the rut, female deer and young males tend to feed in the same area, with mature stags forming bachelor herds and feeding in different areas.

Symptoms can include tremors, convulsions, antler deformities, difficulties walking and death.

On making further inquiries it is understood seven Red Deer were showing similar symptoms. Local Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht staff were notified of the issue and it is understood are taking appropriate action and testing.

It is not known if Ryegrass is present in Killarney National Park however deer regularly feed outside the National Park.

“There is no known treatment to reverse the symptoms of Ryegrass Staggers in farmed deer, animals can be moved to non-infected pastures to prevent escalation of the side effects however in Killarney National Park the deer are free roaming wild deer, so this is not possible,” the Irish Deer Commission said.