Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and deer park with 630 Red and Fallow deer roaming freely since 1637. The deer have played a major role in the park's history and have shaped the landscape too.
Our special grassland habitat depends on grazing and the parkland trees have a distinctive 'browse line' as the deer eat all the leaves and twigs growing below about 1.5 metres. Deer grazing also prevents tree seedlings from growing, keeping the grassland open.
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 an attempt to fight off rivals and attract as many females as possible.
The young are born from 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.
Don't touch, feed or attempt to photograph the deer at close range.
Safety advice for photographers
During the rutting season there is particular interest in the deer. During this time, photographers have been witnessed surrounding deer which can interfere with the course of nature and be very stressful for the deer.
Deer are wild animals and their space must be respected. Always keep a minimum of 50 metres away and use a long lens.
For information on how to safely photograph deer please read the British Deer Society's Code of Conduct.
Safety advice for dog walkers
Deer can feel threatened by dogs even over long distances and when the dog is not behaving in a provocative manner. This is particularly true during the rutting (September-November) and the birthing (May-July) seasons. We recommend walking your dog outside the park at these times.
Deer birthing season 2021
From 4 May-2 August 2021 it will be compulsory to have your dog on a lead in all areas of the park. This is to protect both dogs and deer during deer birthing season. Dog walkers should stick to the perimeter of the park and avoid deer birthing areas (typically areas of long grass and bracken). If a deer does charge, dog walkers are advised to let the dog off the lead, so the dog can run away from danger.
Owners of dogs, who chase wildlife in the parks, including deer, could face criminal prosecution. If you witness a dog chasing a deer contact the on-call police officers for Bushy and Richmond Parks via 07920586546.
Find out more about Dogs in the Royal Parks [PDF 950.16kB].
Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
Woodlands and parks with deer such as Richmond Park and Bushy Park, can attract ticks. To familiarise yourself with symptoms and things you can do to prevent tick bites, view the Tick Bites and Lyme Disease leaflet (PDF 459.83kB).
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 free-living deer in the UK.
Current oral contraceptives, similiar to those used by humans, cannot be given to wild animals because other animals picking on leftovers of deer feed would be adversely affected, and droppings and urine from the deer would contaminate the habitat. Hormonal contraceptives would also interfere with antler growth and shedding; it would be impossible to feed such contraceptives only to the females and prevent the male deer consuming them.
Non hormonal immunocontraceptives can be used on some zoo animals and have been used on moorland ponies in the UK, but they must be injected. Wild deer cannot be rounded up or handled without causing severe stress and injury.
Darting deer with contraceptives is not an option, as it's impossible to identify individual animals to ensure single dosing.
In consultation with our veterinary advisor, however, we annually monitor 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
Deer in The Royal Parks (PDF 3.35MB)