The incidences of visitors getting up “too close and personal” with the deer have been increasing rapidly. This behaviour is now so common that, if it continues, it is inevitable that more people will be injured by the deer.
Photo by Robert Piper
Most members of Friends of Richmond Park know to give deer plenty of room but many visitors to the Park think the deer are tame and treat them like pets, trying to take close up photos, feed and stroke them and encouraging their children to do the same. In fact, as many of us know, the deer are large wild animals which can easily become distressed and alarmed when people and dogs get close to them – they can react without warning, and suddenly run away or charge and attack with their antlers and sharp hooves.
It is especially important to keep a distance during the rutting season, September to November, when male deer can be very aggressive. During May to July, deer are birthing and hinds (females) may also be aggressive and protective. The Royal Parks' advice is always to stay at least 50metres from the deer and not to touch, feed or attempt to photograph them at close range. Dog walkers should keep their dogs on a lead and always under control.
We have seen many reports in the media relating to Richmond and Bushy parks and indeed other parks up and down the country, where wild deer roam, such as this article concerning Wollaton Park, Nottingham.
Here are some press articles reporting incidents and a Radio 4 programme warning about the rutting season (programme available until 12/11/17):
Radio 4 programme Listen from 9mins
Shocking moment Instagrammer poses for a photo with deer during rutting season in Richmond Park – just two weeks after a woman was gored in front of horrified tourists Mail Online 24/10/17
What are they thinking? Families put their lives at risk to get close up pictures of a stag at a wildlife park despite warning they may be attacked Mail Online 18/10/17
Moment man tries to take ‘Instagram photos’ with deer in Richmond park weeks after woman was gored by stag Evening Standard 17/10/17
Celebrity milliner attacked by stag in London's Richmond Park Daily Telegraph 13/10/17
'I thought I was going to die': Celebrity milliner, 43, is mauled by a rutting stag in Richmond Park after it charged at her with its 'huge' antlers and stabbed her through the leg and stomach Mail Online 13/10/17
A woman was “savagely gored” by a rutting stag as she strolled through Richmond Park. Evening Standard 13/10/17
The terrifying moment a rutting stag charged a woman walker and knocked her to the ground. Mail Online 26/09/11
The increase in visitors to Richmond Park, now approximately 5.5million per year, and the fact that almost everyone has a mobile phone with camera, has contributed to the surge in the number of cases of deer harassment and injury to visitors.
We should not forget that Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and the wildlife within it is to be respected and safeguarded.
For more information about Richmond Park and how to ‘tread lightly’ respecting its wildlife, see this recent, award winning, short film by Sir David Attenborough: Richmond Park, National Nature Reserve.