Red and fallow deer have entered the birthing season in the Royal Parks, with over 300 calves and fawns expected to be born in the coming two months.
Deer are vulnerable to disturbance by both dogs and humans, so a new initiative will see Volunteer Rangers operate in Richmond and Bushy Parks to dissuade visitors from getting closer than the recommended 50 metres or going in search of newborns for the perfect selfie. Dog walkers are also being urged to be vigilant, as female deer will act defensively during this vulnerable time and have been known to attack dogs, even when the dog is at a distance and not acting aggressively.
The Ranger service is a three-year pilot and operates at busy times in Bushy and Richmond Parks to educate visitors about wildlife protection issues and share knowledge about the nature and the history of the parks. The service will also extend to Greenwich Park in time for the school holidays.
Jo Haywood, Volunteer Co-ordinator at The Royal Parks, said: “The Ranger service started in April and the public response has been overwhelmingly positive, so we are currently on the lookout for more Rangers.
“As you would expect for two deer parks, conversations tend to focus on the deer and the 50-metre rule, and this is particularly important during birthing season, but Rangers also advise people on the best walking routes, attractions and generally just how to make the most of their visit.”
Baby deer are born scentless and immobile; therefore, hiding a fawn or calf in long grass or bracken for the first few weeks of their life is the best way a mother can protect them from predators whilst they forage for food. Every year, several baby deer are killed by dog attacks, so mothers will act defensively if they spot dogs close by. Human contact can be just as devastating - touching, or even just approaching a baby deer may result in it being abandoned by its mother and failing to survive.
Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manager for Richmond Park, explains: “Females are on high alert during the birthing season and equate dogs with predators. Get too close, and deer will attack dogs to defend their infants. It’s exactly why we encourage people not to walk their dogs in the parks during this time or, as a minimum, advise having them on a lead, sticking to the perimeter of the park, and avoiding areas of long grass and bracken.”
Curtis adds: “Deer are excellent mothers and will leave newborns hidden in bracken whilst they forage for food. They are not abandoned, and the mother will be standing nearby. Do not under any circumstances touch them or pick them up otherwise you will traumatise them and make them more susceptible to attacks from dogs, foxes and crows. If you have any concerns, please call the park office.”
Red and fallow deer have been roaming in Richmond and Bushy Parks since the 1500s. Visitors are always advised to keep a minimum of 50 metres away.
If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Ranger for Richmond, Bushy or Greenwich Parks visit www.royalparks.org.uk/rangers and apply by 30 May 2019.
To report an injury to a person, dog or a deer, please contact: