The Royal Parks has released images of deer swooping on picnics in Bushy Park, devouring the contents that include large amounts of plastic.
This learned behaviour has occurred because of visitors feeding the free roaming wild deer in Bushy and Richmond Parks, despite it being illegal, unnecessary, and dangerous.
The problem is not confined to London deer parks, with worldwide coverage appearing of deer ingesting plastic in Japan, India and Ireland, tragically resulting in some of these animals’ deaths. One deer in Thailand was discovered with 7kg of rubbish in its stomach, including instant coffee sachets, clothing and plastic rope.
“Human interaction with deer is causing all sorts of problems. As a result of persistent feeding by visitors, the deer in Richmond and Bushy Parks are now beginning to associate humans with food, which is not normal behaviour”, explains Bill Swan, Assistant Park Manager of Bushy Park.
“We want to keep wildlife wild in the parks so please follow The Royal Parks’ advice and don’t touch or feed these majestic animals,” adds Swan. “Feeding deer is both unnecessary and dangerous. The parks provide an abundance of natural food.”
“Many deer will eat the plastic bags containing food, unaware that they can’t digest it. If it doesn’t suffocate them first, it can get lodged in their stomach and block it, which can cause death from malnutrition.”
To avoid becoming the focus of unwanted attention, visitors wanting to picnic in Bushy and Richmond Parks should remain alert to the presence of deer and avoid eating in the following hotspot areas:
- The lawns between the Model Boat Pond and Playground in Bushy Park
- The areas between Richmond Gate and Hornbeam Avenue in Richmond Park
- By Pen Ponds in Richmond Park
If visitors are approached by deer when picnicking, they should observe the following advice:
- cover their food and close any bags
- leave the food behind and move back to a safe distance
- wait for the deer to move on before returning to their picnic spot
Jo Haywood, who runs the Volunteer Ranger Service in Bushy and Richmond Parks said: “We’ve had a few incidents this summer of visitors being surprised by deer raiding their picnics, and it can be a frightening experience, so we are advising that visitors be cautious. Visitors should always keep a minimum of 50 metres away from deer wherever possible.”
Together, Richmond and Bushy Parks are home to almost 1,000 wild free roaming deer. The deer have been a feature of the parks for centuries and the special grassland habitat in the parks, that is protected by law depends on deer grazing. Deer grazing also prevents tree seedlings from growing, keeping the grassland open.