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The Royal Parks is urging visitors to Bushy and Richmond Parks to be extra vigilant and keep a minimum distance of 50 metres away during the annual deer rut.

This plea comes as more photos emerge of visitors feeding, crowding, and petting wild deer pumped full of testosterone.

The rutting season (breeding season) is underway, in which male deer compete for breeding rights from now until November. Red stags and fallow bucks, flooded with testosterone and adrenaline, roar and clash antlers in a bid to fight off rivals and attract as many hinds (female deer) as possible.

“Stags can have harems of up to 40 hinds, and they spend most of their day and night chasing challengers away and preventing hinds from straying, leaving little time for sleeping or eating,” explains Simon Richards, Park Manager.

He adds: “This exhaustion and hunger, coupled with testosterone surging through their bodies, means they are in no mood for dogs spooking their hinds or humans getting in their face for a selfie.”

During the rut, The Royal Parks is urging people to take responsibility for their own safety by:

  • Keeping a minimum distance of 50 metres away. The more space the better. If visitors want a better view, they should bring binoculars
  • Keeping dogs on leads or walking them elsewhere
  • Not feeding or touching deer
  • Not taking photos of deer at close range
  • Never getting in between two rutting male deer

Over the years, there have been incidents where visitors have suffered injuries from rutting deer that could have been avoided. In 2018, a young girl who was being photographed next to a rutting stag was injured in Bushy Park, and the previous year a visitor was hospitalised after suffering injuries from a male deer in Richmond Park. All incidents almost exclusively happen when people get closer than the recommended 50 metres.

Richards concludes: “Deer rutting is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the UK. If people say they love nature, then they must leave wild animals alone. By getting too close, and invading their space, visitors are not only risking serious injury, they are also disrupting the natural behaviour of the rut.”

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