The Royal Parks is recommending dog owners who walk their pets in Richmond and Bushy Parks to consider walking them outside the parks during the deer mating season, or rut.
All visitors coming to the parks are advised to:
* keep at least 50m away from the deer;
* never get in between two deer; and
* never feed or photograph deer at close range.
During the mating season, the red stags and fallow bucks compete for females. 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.
Deer can feel threatened by dogs even over long distances and when the dog is not behaving in a provocative manner. This is particularly likely during the mating season, which is currently at its peak and runs into November.
Perceiving dogs as a threat, deer may charge a dog and its owner. The presence of dogs may also disrupt the deer breeding pattern, impacting on the behaviour of the wild animals during the birthing season.
Recently, the number of owners choosing to walk their dogs in Richmond and Bushy Parks has increased considerably. The number of incidents in which deer and dogs have been injured or killed has also increased.
Simon Richards, Park Manager for Richmond and Bushy Parks, said:
"Deer are wild animals and can behave unpredictably. If you choose, at your own risk, to walk your dog in the park at these times, it is advisable to keep your dog on a lead and consider an alternative route, such as following the wall line of the park where you are close to exit gates. If pursued by a deer, let go of the lead. The deer are less likely to charge if the dog runs away from them."
Deer have roamed freely in The Royal Parks since 1529 when the parks were Royal hunting grounds. The gentle grazing of the red and fallow deer continue to shape the landscape and keeping the grassland open.