Deer herds in London’s Bushy and Home Parks have come under severe stress after an explosion in park visitors during lockdown.
There has been an increase in dogs chasing deer and a growing trend in walkers venturing into more secluded areas of the park where the herd once felt safe.
This continual disruption has had a significant impact on the animals, which is of concern ahead of the birthing season in May.
Charles Smith-Jones of the British Deer Society said: “They’ll be at the stage now where the pregnancy is just really developing, so if they are chased and stressed, the chances of them aborting will be much higher.
“This is a big, big worry.”
More than 200 fawns and calves are born each year in Bushy and Richmond Parks, but there is concern that the increased footfall could significantly decrease the deer count.
“That’s even before dogs actually catch up with the deer,” Smith-Jones added.
Since March 2020, four deer have been killed by dogs in Bushy and Richmond Park, and there have been 58 reported incidents of dogs chasing deer over the same period.
For Smith-Jones, the problem is that many dog owners do not consider their pets to be capable of attacking deer.
“A pet dog is normally a very quiet, laid back creature but there is something about a running deer which triggers the dog’s instinct to chase,” he said.
“That moment that instinct takes over, no matter how well behaved the dog is under normal circumstances, it will ignore its owner and won’t come back to the call or whistle.”
The British Deer Society advises owners to keep their dogs on leads anywhere in the vicinity of wildlife, in particular during the birthing months.
From May until August, the deer will have young animals hidden in the undergrowth, causing many parents to become aggressive if they perceive their youngsters to be in danger, sometimes even attacking and causing serious injury.
“There is a misconception in the parks that they are tame deer but they’re not, they’re wild animals”, Smith-Jones said.
“The deer need to be left alone.”
For more information, please visit the British deer society website.
Featured image credit: Sue Lindenberg