Protective mother deer in Richmond Park and Bushy Park will attack dogs who get too close during birthing season, visitors are being warned.
More than 300 baby deer are expected to be born over the next two months and The Royal Parks is encouraging people not to walk their dogs in the parks at this time.
Dogs kill about five baby deer a year and mothers treat them as predators.
A spokesperson for The Royal Parks said: “We had one incident last year where a female deer was killed by an out-of-control dog during birthing season.
“As baby deer rely on their mother for milk and protection, it’s very likely that the deer’s newborn perished.”
Visitors are always advised to stay at least 50 metres away from deer and this is particularly important during birthing season.
Dog walkers in particular are urged to be vigilant as mother deer have been known to attack dogs even when they are at a distance and not acting provocatively.
Assistant park manager Adam Curtis said as a minimum walkers should keep their dogs on a lead and stick to the perimeter of the park during birthing season.
They should also avoid areas of long grass and bracken where mother deer hide their newborn.
Baby deer are born scentless and immobile and so hiding a fawn in long grass or bracken for the first few weeks of its life is the best way a mother can protect it from predators while she forages for food.
Mr Curtis said: “Deer are excellent mothers and will leave newborns hidden in bracken while they forage for food. They are not abandoned, and the mother will be standing nearby.
“Do not under any circumstances touch them or pick them up otherwise you will traumatise them and make them more susceptible to attacks from dogs, foxes and crows.”
While baby deer are most vulnerable to dog attacks, human contact can be just as devastating.
Touching or even just approaching a baby deer may mean it is abandoned by its mother and won’t survive.
A new initiative will see volunteer rangers operate in Richmond Park and Bushy Park to dissuade visitors from getting closer than the recommended 50 metres or going in search of the perfect selfie.
The Royal Parks volunteer coordinator Jo Haywood said: “The ranger service started in April and the public response has been overwhelmingly positive, so we are currently on the lookout for more rangers.”
Red and fallow deer have roamed Richmond Park and Bushy Park since the 1500s.
Call Richmond Park on 0300 061 2200 or Bushy Park on 0300 061 2250 to report an injury to a person, dog or deer.
Featured image credit: Amanda Cook.