See video about Richmond Park deer, introduced by Sir David Attenborough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyZvs5aRyCg
The sight of stags locking horns to claim hard-fought mating rights is an enduring symbol of autumn.
But Royal Parks managers say the rutting season is under threat from amateur photographers who throw the animals off their stride.
Adam Curtis, assistant manager of Richmond Park, said: “The deer attract too much attention for their own good — I have seen 60 photographers circling a stag trying to mate. That would even put me off.”
During the breeding season, between September and November, male deer roar, grunt and clash antlers in an attempt to fight off rivals and attract as many females as possible. The battles for supremacy can be so vicious that the animals are injured or killed.
Managers have urged visitors to remain at least 50 metres from the deer, keep dogs on leads and preferably walk them outside the parks. Owners whose pets chase wildlife could be prosecuted.
Visitors are advised to walk their dogs outside the parks during this period. If visitors choose not to follow this advice, they should ensure dogs are on a lead at all times and consider an alternative route which follows the wall line of the park, where they are close to exit gates.
Over 600 deer roam freely through Richmond Park, with over 300 in Bushy Park. Throughout the year, visitors are advised to:
always keep at least 50 metres away from deer;
never touch or feed the deer. Deer are wild animals, not pets;
avoid getting in between two deer; and
never photograph the deer at close range, use a long lens and consider taking photos at off peak times such as early mornings and weekdays.
Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manager for Richmond Park said:
"We issue this advice for the wellbeing of our deer and park visitors. Deer can become stressed and behave unpredictably if they feel threatened by dogs or have hordes of people standing close by trying to take pictures."
More information about dogs and deer in the Royal Parks can be found on the Royal Parks website.
To report an injury to a dog or a deer, please contact:
Richmond Park: 0300 061 2200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org