Bushy Park is a deer park. Red and Fallow Deer still roam freely throughout the park, just as they did when Henry VIII used to hunt here.
There are currently about 320 deer and their grazing is essential to maintain the high wildlife value of the park's grasslands. Unlike cutting, grazing creates more variation in structure and plant diversity and does not damage the anthills, which add further diversity and character to the grassland.
The herds are kept out of the Woodland Gardens and other protected plantations in order to protect the trees and shrubs there. The Red Deer are the largest mammal native to the British Isles and in the summer their coats are glossy red. Fallow deer, introduced by the Romans, are smaller and their summer coats, usually spotted, vary from a cream to darkish brown colour.
During the autumn the deer 'rut' (breeding season) takes place. The Red stags and Fallow bucks compete for females (known as hinds and does respectively). At this time, the large males roar, bark and clash antlers in a spectacular way in an attempt to fight off rivals and attract as many females as possible. The young are born May - July and are hidden by their mothers amongst the bracken and long grass. The young are very vulnerable at this time and their mothers, being sensitive to disturbance, will defend their babies.
The deer are wild animals - please keep at least 50 metres away from the deer and be aware of your surroundings so that you do not come between two rutting stags or a mother and her calf.
Do not touch, feed or photograph the deer at close range.
Management of deer in the Royal Parks
As a member of the British Deer Society, The Royal Parks takes deer welfare very seriously. Deer populations are actively managed to keep herds at a sustainable size.
If animals were not removed, food would become scarce and more animals would ultimately suffer. Without population control there would be other welfare issues such as low body fat, malnutrition and high incidence of death from exposure to cold in winter. Attempting to maintain too many deer within a restricted park area would soon lead to a build-up of parasites and other pathogens causing disease in the deer.
The Royal Parks does not administer contraceptives to deer through feed or injections. There are no contraceptives licensed for use in the UK. These techniques are still in the experimental stage in both Europe and the USA and there are concerns that contraceptives introduced through feed and not consumed by the deer herd would impact negatively on other species. To inject contraceptives requires a high degree of human intervention which is highly stressful for the deer as they are not able to be herded like farmed animals. In consultation with our veterinary advisor, however, we are carefully monitoring the worldwide development of technology to limit deer populations and will continue to keep our policies for the management of deer under review. Where the opportunity arises to move deer to other deer parks we do so. This opportunity is rare given that wild populations of all species of deer are increasing nationally.
The British Deer Society and the Deer Initiative of England and Wales fully endorse humane culling as best practice in deer herd management and The Royal Parks is an expert manager of enclosed wild deer herds. The deer in the Royal Parks are under veterinary supervision and all aspects of their welfare are monitored regularly
Download a copy of our leaflet Deer in The Royal Parks