DOZENS of deer have been culled in Dublin's Phoenix Park today to avoid an "over-obundant population", the Office Of Public Works (OPW) has said.
Some 34 of the animals were shot dead by park rangers this afternoon to lower the risk of disease and road accidents in the park.
Images from today's cull show a number of men armed with rifles placing deer carcasses in removal vehicles.
In a statement, the OPW explained the killings were necessary to keep numbers of the creatures down as a conservation measure.
"The role of the wild fallow deer herd in the Phoenix Park as a valuable component of biodiversity must be recognised," a spokesperson said.
"However, this must be balanced with an equal recognition of the potential for deer to impact adversely on a range of other biodiversity values, particularly where other conservation habitats and their dependent species are concerned".
Deer being culled in Dublin's Phoenix park today. pic.twitter.com/jjmsndbGgh
— Niall Carson (@niallcarsonpa) 9 January 2019
They added: "Sustainable deer management must rely on sound, practical and applied scientific research, and any deer management policy must be cognisant of its application to practical deer management on the ground.
"An over-abundant deer population can result in an increasing incidence of road traffic accidents and increase the potential role of deer in the epidemiology of specific diseases."
The Phoenix Park's current herd of around 400 to 500 fallow deer descend from an original group of the animals introduced in the 1660s.
Today's cull was carried out according to a protocol using best practices and took full regard of the welfare of the deer as well as the safety of staff and the public, the OPW said.
The carcasses from the culling have been purchased by a game dealer approved by the Department of Agriculture, the government agency added.
Last February, it was revealed that more than 200 deer had been culled in the Phoenix Park since 2016 - with the carcasses sold to a meat supplier for almost €20,000.
The National Animal Rights Association claim the cullings are money-making schemes and reject government claims that they are necessary for conservation.