Photo: Mother and baby deer, by Amanda Cook.
An important message from the Royal Parks
From Monday 18 May until Monday 6 July it is compulsory for dogs to be on a lead at all times when being walked in Richmond and Bushy Parks.
Over the next few weeks, 300 baby deer will be born in Richmond and Bushy Parks. The season marks a vulnerable time for female deer, who hide their young in bracken and long grass to conceal them from dogs and other perceived predators.
Deer are excellent mothers and they will be on constant high alert, unable to relax if they see a dog in the vicinity. During the deer birthing season, protective mother deer have been known to give chase and attack dogs, even if they are at a distance and not acting aggressively.
Deer are instinctively frightened of dogs, and this fear has not been helped by recent events, in which 21 separate incidents of dogs chasing deer in Bushy and Richmond Parks have been recorded since the end of March. Of those recorded, two incidents resulted in deer sustaining fatal injuries, including a pregnant deer just weeks away from giving birth. A further two incidents put visitors in harm’s way by causing a stampede of deer through park visitors and their families.
Simon Richards, Park Manager at Richmond Park, said: “Unfortunately, deer worrying is not a new occurrence, however over the last few weeks we’ve received many reports on the issue. We are about to head into deer birthing season, where female deer will fear dogs harming their young and will act defensively.
“We believe strongly that if dogs are not on leads, we will see an increase in dogs chasing deer, a heightened risk of female deer attacking dogs, and a higher incidence of new born deer killed by dogs.
“It is important to emphasise that we always advise that dogs, irrespective of how good their recall is, be kept on leads during deer birthing season. This is for the wellbeing of our deer, and for the safety of dogs and visitors. This year, for the avoidance of doubt, we will be making it compulsory. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused and would like to stress it’s a temporary measure that will end on the 6th July. We thank all our visitors for their support with these measures.”
Recently, park management have also noticed an increase in visitors walking their dogs in more remote areas of the parks. This is likely to be because of social distancing, however many of these remote sections of the park, are also quiet refuges for deer and where they give birth.
The Royal Parks has published a map showing the deer nursery areas, to help dog walkers plan their route in advance and to know the areas to avoid.
Advice to dog walkers:
- Keep your dog on a lead at all times, and in all areas of the parks
- Avoid the nursery areas shaded in orange on the maps. These are typically areas of bracken and long grass where newborn deer could be concealed. These will be signposted but it’s wise to plan your walking route in advance.
- If a deer charges, let go of the lead so the dog can run away.
Advice to all visitors:
- Give deer plenty of space. Always keep 50 metres away
- Avoid nursery areas. Deer may act defensively towards visitors if they inadvertently get too close to their young.
- Do not touch a new born deer, even if it’s on its own. It is not abandoned, it’s mother will be grazing nearby.