The Royal Parks are urging dog walkers to exercise their dogs outside Richmond and Bushy Park during the deer birthing season (May-July).
Up to 200 deer (fawns and calves) are born every year in Richmond Park between May and July. Female deer protect their young by hiding them in dense cover such as bracken or long grass for a few weeks after their birth. The mother will often stand nearby and if a dog or a human gets too close to their newborn they may act defensively.
Visitors to Richmond Park are therefore advised to walk their dogs outside the parks during this period. If they choose not to follow this advice they should keep their dogs on leads at all times and steer well clear of nursery areas which will be identified by notices placed around the parks. If pursued by deer, dog walkers are advised to let go of the lead, since deer are less likely to charge if the dog runs way from them.
Newborns are born scentless and immobile; therefore hiding a fawn or calf for the first few weeks of their life is the best way a mother can protect them from predators. Although no natural deer predators exist in Richmond Park, the deer still retain these wild instincts and may recognise dogs as predators.
Over 600 deer roam freely in Richmond Park. Throughout the year, visitors are advised to:
- always keep at least 50m from deer
- never touch or feed the deer
- avoid getting in-between two deer
- never photograph the deer at close range. Use a long lens.
Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manger for Richmond Park has said: "It is important that we keep in mind that deer are wild, strong animals that can behave unpredictably. Deer can feel threatened by dogs even over long distances and when the dog is not behaving in a provocative manner. Therefore we ask that you do not walk your dogs in Richmond and Bushy Park during May-July and if you absolutely must, then ensure they are on leads."