Royal Parks calls for social distancing from wild deer to protect animals from extreme litter resurgence

By Anaka Nair
August 13 2020, 13.00

Post-lockdown picnic goers are urged to respect the environment after shocking footage was taken of wild deer feeding on abandoned rubbish. 

Two fallow deer were seen seeking out and eating leftover food waste from plastic bags that were stacked by a bin in Bushy Park. 

A rise in public feeding has also made it commonplace for deer to approach humans which is dangerous to visitors. 

Bushy Park assistant park manager Bill Swan said: “We’re finding more litter being left than ever before and we urge people to bin it or if the bins are already full, to please take it home.

“A witness told us that one of the deer managed to hook a carrier bag full of cans and rubbish in its antler which it found distressing.

“This is an incredibly sad scene to capture.”

Royal Parks staff cleared more than five tonnes of rubbish from Bushy Park last weekend.

Wild deer now associate plastic bags with treats, as staff have seen the animals being fed crisps and sandwiches in the past. 

The Royal Parks charity has brought back the previously suspended Volunteer Ranger Service to inform visitors about the dangers of feeding deer.

Dumped litter presents a risk to wildlife as picnic scraps and plastic bags can block their digestive system causing a lingering death from starvation.

“It’s all too common that we spot deer, foxes, squirrels and birds eating plastic and other rubbish left behind by visitors, causing their stomachs to block up and bloat and preventing them passing waste,” added Mr Swan. 

“We want people to enjoy their visit to the beautiful spaces in our parks, but we ask visitors to stop, think and protect the wildlife they are there to enjoy.”

In a statement on the Bushy Park website, visitors are asked to stay alert, avoid touching or feeding and always maintain a 50 metre distance from wild deer. 

Bushy Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and home to 320 red and fallow deer in an area of 1099 acres. 

The amount of abandoned litter across all Royal Parks has increased by approximately one third since lockdown easing began. 

Despite the increased number of bins placed around Bushy Park, grounds staff still stay until 9pm to clear rubbish.

Data showed that litter in Bushy Park had more than doubled to 20 tonnes in June 2020 compared to 7 tonnes a year earlier. 

This took staff 685 hours to clear away.

To combat the issue of litter, The Royal Parks charity is asking people to #BeKindToYourParks.

The campaign welcomes people to the park but asks visitors to respect the environment by binning litter or taking it home if the bins are already full.

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