Bushy Park (Cathy Cooper)

The Royal Parks charity is reminding people that ‘dogs on leads’ will be mandatory from 1 May until the 31 July in Richmond and Bushy Parks, to protect both dogs and deer during the deer birthing  season.

 Over the next few months, around 300 deer will be born across both parks. The season marks a vulnerable time for female deer, who hide their young in bracken and long grass to conceal them from dogs and other perceived predators.

During this sensitive time for the deer, park officals say the safest option is not to walk your dog in either Richmond or Bushy Parks.

Park Manager for Richmond Park, Paul Richards, says: “Although deer are instinctively frightened of dogs, they will overcome this fear if they believe their young are at risk. This means female deer may chase and attack, even if the dog is at a distance, on a lead and not acting provocatively. This can be extremely frightening to witness, especially for the dog owner.”

Owners who choose, at their own risk, to walk their dog in Richmond and Bushy Parks during this season must have their dog on a lead, and for their own safety should also be on high alert for female deer, avoid areas of long grass and bracken where newly born deer could be concealed, and stick to the perimeter of the park in case they need to escape.

The Royal Parks also urges all visitors to give female deer respect, privacy and space, and not to go in search of young deer. Visitors must not handle newborn deer, under any circumstance. If visitors see a young deer on its own, they should rest assured that its mother will be grazing nearby. Female deer hide their young whilst they forage for food to create the milk they need to nourish their young. Throughout the course of the day, the mother will periodically return to suckle her newborn, but she may reject it if she picks up a human scent.

Richards adds: “This is the fourth year we’ve had ‘dogs on leads’ during the deer birthing season and it’s been an important step for deer welfare during this vulnerable time.

“As a result of this policy, our wildlife officers have noticed positive changes in the deer, with the deer appearing less on edge and exhibiting more natural behaviours such as roaming further into the park. Most importantly though, the number of dogs chasing deer dramatically reduces during this time. We’d like to thank the public for their continued support.”

Advice to dog walkers:

Advice to all park visitors:

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