Irish Deer

Yeah, I know its been a while since I posted. Please forgive me, I hope to be able to spend much more time updating this blog than I have done in the last few months.

Anyway, I was flicking through my camera lately and came across some pictures that I took in Killarney National Park last year. I was there in early autumn to observe the deer rut.

For those of you who do not know, the rut (or rutting season) is the mating season for deer. Here in Ireland it typically starts in late September/early October. During this time the male seer gather their harem of females and fight of competitors using their antlers.

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Red deer stag

Killarney National Park, in County Kerry (Ireland) is home to Ireland’s oldest herd of Red deer (Cervus elaphus). Until recently it was thought that the Killarney deer were descended from a herd that survived the last ice-age. However, recent research suggests that this is not the case, and that the herd currently found in Killarney are descendants of animals that were brought to Ireland by neolithic man. It is also worth mentioning that red deer are Ireland’s largest land mammal, and are much bigger than the other deer species found in Ireland today.Currently there are three deer species found in Ireland, but only the Red Deer is considered truly native. The other species found in Ireland today have all been introduced in (relatively) recent history.

 

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Fallow stag

Fallow Deer (Dama dama) were brought to Ireland by the Normans during the 12th Century, who used them as a food source and for recreational hunting. Since then they have become on of the most widespread deer in the country, with enclosed herds escaping and joining the wild herds introduced by the Normans. This species have distinctive palmate antlers, where the red deer and sika deer have branched antlers.

 

Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are an Asian deer species and were brought to Ireland by Lord Powerscourt in 1860. Just 4 years later, sika were introduced to other private estates throughout the country. Today they are considered pests in many parts of

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Sika Stag 

the country, particularly in forested habitats where they are known to overgraze the understory layer (preventing regeneration) and damage existing stands by stripping bark from mature trees. That being said, the Irish population of Sika deer is of significant ecological importance and is considered one of the most genetically pure populations in the world!

 

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Reeve’s muntjac deer

The most recent deer species introduced to Ireland is the Reeve’s Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus reevesi). This is another Asian deer species that was introduced to the UK for use in private estates. It has since escaped to the wild and there are numerous wild populations in England. This species was confirmed to be present in Ireland in 2010, and is currently designated as an invasive species with the potential to become “high impact” by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. This deer is particularly small when compared to the other deer species currently in Ireland. They are roughly the size of a fox, or a medium-sized dog and have a distinctive barking call (hence their other name – “barking deer”).

 

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