Dog walkers in Richmond and Bushy Parks are urged to take extra care during the deer birthing season, after a woman walking her dog was charged and knocked over by a female deer in Richmond Park this week.
Between May and July every year, over 300 deer are born in Bushy and Richmond Parks. This year’s first baby – a red deer – was born in Richmond Park over the weekend of the Royal Wedding.
Deer are vulnerable to disturbance by both dogs and humans. Every year, a number of baby deer have been killed at the parks by dog attacks. Owners are urged to stick to the busiest areas of the parks and keep their pets on leads or, where possible, walk them elsewhere during the birthing season. This is particularly important during the period where deer and their young are most vulnerable – from now until the end of June.
Human contact can be equally devastating, and touching, or even approaching, a very young deer may result in it being abandoned by its mother and failing to survive.
Female deer protect their newborns by hiding them in dense bracken or long grass, making them difficult to detect. Parents are sensitive to disturbance and will defend their young, should people or animals come too close, potentially behaving aggressively or even charging.
Dog walkers can help keep newborns safe through three simple steps:
- keep dogs on leads at all times
- steer clear of remote parts of the park where deer are more likely to have their young
- stick to main routes and pathways wherever possible
Richmond resident, Sir David Attenborough, said: “Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and a fabulous place to spot red and fallow deer. The herds are wonderful to watch but please do remember that they are wild, unpredictable animals and their space must be respected.
“Please keep at least 50 metres away, using a long lens if you’d like to take photos - and take extra care not to come between two rutting stags or a mother and her calf. Deer can feel threatened by dogs, even when they’re a long way off, so always keep dogs on a lead around the deer.”
Adam Curtis, Park Manger for Richmond Park, added: “Unfortunately, a woman walking her dog at the weekend was knocked over by a female deer defending her new born baby. Importantly, she wasn’t injured, but it’s a frightening incident and a warning that dog walkers should steer clear of deer.
"We ask that all visitors respect the welfare of our very vulnerable new arrivals and take simple steps to help their mothers protect them. Deer will act defensively if they feel their young are under threat and can cause serious injury to humans and kill dogs should they charge.
“No one wants to be responsible for serious harm or abandonment befalling a newborn deer. With a little extra care, you can help us make sure this year’s young thrive.”
If a deer does charge, dog walkers are advised to let go of the lead so the dog can run away from danger. The deer is very unlikely to give chase, it just wants the dog to be a safe distance from its young.
More than 600 deer have roamed freely through Richmond Park since 1637, with a further 300 residing in Bushy Park. The deer have played a major role in the parks’ histories and have also helped shaped the landscape. Throughout the year, visitors are asked to respect these long-term residents by not feeding or approaching deer and keeping at least 50 meters away.
To report an injury to a human, dog or a deer, please contact: