The deer culling season is upon us again and park opening and closing times are shown below. There is a natural aversion to culling deer. Many people want to stop it as they feel that it’s cruel and unnecessary. Although counter intuitive for many, culling is good management and protects the Royal Parks’ herds.
Deer are a key and fundamental species in The Royal Parks which were created as deer parks 400 years ago. The Royal Parks manage the herd sustainably, using best practice so that the deer continue to help manage the landscape and live as wild animals.
Without natural predators of deer their population would continue unchecked. Without population control, food would become scarce and more animals would ultimately suffer. There would also be other welfare issues such as low body fat, malnutrition, high incidence of death from exposure to cold in winter and a build-up of parasites and diseases in deer.
When population numbers exceed the capacity of the park, deer begin to starve. This causes their immune systems to weaken and their resistance to bacterial and parasitic infection is compromised. Overpopulation also results in less grassland to graze on, meaning deer are forced to eat right down to the stem and roots of the grass and plants. This increases the uptake of bowel parasites and makes the deer unwell.
The optimum number of deer is calculated by reference to the welfare of the deer and the impact they are having on the natural ecosystem. This number is referred to the carrying capacity of the park. The carrying capacity in Bushy Park is around 130 red deer and 230 fallow deer, and over 300 of each species in Richmond Park. The population numbers are closely monitored by Wildlife Officers and the number of deer culled each year depends on the number of calves and fawns born that spring. Animals carrying injury are identified first. They are then selected across the herd, in such a way as to retain the gender ratio of 2 female to 1 male and age structure within the herd.
So in spite of natural aversion, the cull is part of the carefully managed control of the well-being of the herd, and carried out humanely in line with the British Deer Society and the Deer Initiative of England and Wales.
Details of opening and closing times during the cull:
From Monday 4 September to Friday 6 October 2017 and from the morning of Wednesday 1 November to Friday 8 December 2017, the vehicle gates to Bushy Park will be locked at 7:00pm and the pedestrian gates at 10:30pm, Sunday to Thursday.
All gates will be unlocked between 7:30am and 8:00am.