At first glance, the rugged landscapes of the Gap of Dunloe might not seem like the most welcoming habitat for animals, but you would be surprised to know just how rich in wildlife this region is. Birds, mammals, fish, and even the Kerry Slug all call this part of the world their home.
The upland areas of Killarney National Park are particularly popular among Ireland’s only native herd of Red Deer. Several hundred of these deer roam the region, where they have lived continuously for some 4,000 years. Their cousins, the Japanese Sika Deer, arrived relatively recently, in 1865, and they can be found both in the open mountain areas and also throughout the woodlands of Killarney. Other native Irish mammals and long-established non-native species include badgers, foxes, rabbits, and voles.
A varied landscape of bog, mountain moorland, woods, and lakes make the Gap of Dunloe a rich habitat for many bird species. You will find several kinds of raptors, including sparrow hawks, kestrels, and the occasional peregrine falcon and merlin, as well as glimpses of the white-tailed eagle, which was introduced to Killarney in 2007. Meadow pipits and stonechats abound in the open heath, with ravens a common sight circling far overhead. Chaffinches and robins are common breeders in the wooded areas, and the lakes and rivers are home to herons, mallards, little grebes, and water rails. Keep an eye out for the rainbow flash of the kingfisher too.
Fish & other creatures
Killarney’s lakes are naturally stocked with brown trout and salmon, with some wonderful wild brown trout fishing available in the Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley region. The easiest lake to fish in the Gap of Dunloe is Auger Lake, the second from the top after you leave Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
Unusual invertebrate species you might find around the Gap of Dunloe include:
- The northern emerald dragonfly, the rarest Irish dragonfly, breeds in shallow bog pools.
- Several caddisfly and stonefly species usually found further north are thought to have been left behind after the last Ice Age.
- The Kerry Slug feeds on lichens on rocks and tree trunks and is believed to be the only slug that can roll itself into a ball.