The Royal Parks charity is urging visitors to Bushy and Richmond Parks to be extra vigilant and keep a minimum distance of 50 metres away during the annual deer rut.
This advice follows the publication of a video that shows photographers, many with long lenses, dangerously close to stags in Bushy Park, London. In the footage, one resting stag with sharp antlers is so disturbed by the photographers’ proximity, that it suddenly stands up and moves away.
The rutting (breeding) season is underway, in which male deer compete for breeding rights from now until November. Red stags and fallow bucks, flooded with testosterone and adrenaline, roar and clash antlers in a bid to fight off rivals and attract as many hinds and does as possible.
Phil Edwards, Bushy Park Manager, commented on the video: “Of course it’s disrespectful to get this close to wild animals, however what I really struggle to understand is why these photographers are taking such obvious risks with their own safety. These animals are wild and therefore unpredictable, and during the rut stags and bucks are pumped full of testosterone. Furthermore, they can weigh upwards of 25 stone and travel up to 30mph, so getting hit by one is the equivalent of being mown down by a motorbike.
“Richmond and Bushy Parks are very special because the wild deer roam freely, and animal lovers can observe them behaving naturally from a distance. What’s not a pretty picture is seeing these majestic animals followed, cornered, sometimes even enticed so that people can get the ‘perfect’ shot of them. Keep Wildlife Wild by leaving them alone, and just give them a bit of respect.”
During the rut, The Royal Parks is urging people to take responsibility for their own safety by:
Keeping a minimum distance of 50 metres away. The more space the better, especially during rutting season. If visitors want a better view, they should bring binoculars
Over the years, there have been incidents where visitors have suffered injuries from rutting deer that could have been avoided. In 2018, a young girl who was being photographed next to a rutting stag was injured in Bushy Park, and in the previous year a visitor was hospitalised after suffering injuries from a male deer in Richmond Park. All incidents almost exclusively happen when people get closer than the recommended 50 metres.
Charles Smith-Jones, Technical Adviser for the British Deer Society said: “No matter how relaxed park deer may seem about human presence, never forget that they are wild animals. Please give them plenty of space and enjoy the spectacle of the rut from a sensible distance. This is not just to avoid disturbing them at this important part of the deer year but is very much for your own safety as well.”