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 newborn 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. To help dog walkers plan their route in advance, The Royal Parks has published maps which show the deer nursery areas, so that dog walkers know which 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. Although keeping dogs on leads and avoiding deer birthing areas significantly reduces the likelihood of deer and dog conflict, it does not eliminate risk. The only way to completely eliminate risk for your dog is to avoid Bushy and Richmond Parks altogether during deer birthing season (until 6 July).
Advice to all visitors:
- Give deer plenty of space. Always keep a minimum of 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 newborn deer, even if it’s on its own. It is not abandoned, it’s mother will be grazing nearby.
To report an injury to a person, dog or deer, please contact:
Richmond Park: 0300 061 2200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bushy Park 0300 061 2250 or email email@example.com
If you witness a dog chasing a deer, immediately call the on-call police for Richmond and Bushy Parks on 07920 586546.
Below is a recent video of a dog chasing a deer in Richmond Park: