Royal Parks issue warning to public not to go near rutting deer in Richmond Park

Image above: A Richmond Park visitor getting too close to a stag; photograph Royal Parks

Aggressive stags undergo physical changes, including an increase of testosterone and the thickness of their necks during mating season

The Royal Parks have issued a warning to people visiting Richmond Park during rutting (mating) season. The male deer undergo “behavioural and physical changes” during autumn, from September to early November, and will roar and clash antlers in a bid to fight off rivals and attract as many females as possible to mate with.

In the lead up to the rut, there are a number of physiological changes male deer go through, including an increase of testosterone, the doubling of the thickness of their necks, the larynx becoming more prominent and the tongue changing shape.

The rutting season attracts photographers to Richmond Park from all over the country, but the Royal Parks urge visitors to be extra vigilant in the run up to the rut, as a stag can weigh around 25 stone and can have lethally sharp antlers. Being hit by a stag travelling at full speed of up to 30mph, the charity says, is the equivalent of being mown down by a motorbike.

Members of the public are being urged to keep at least 50 metres away from the animals at all times and should not ‘wave food or mobile phones’ in the their faces. Dogs should also be kept on leashes, or walked elsewhere, and visitors should never stand between two rutting dear.

In 2022, there were 14 incidents in Richmond Park with deer reported to the Royal Parks, a significant increase from the nine reported in 2021 and six reported in 2020.

“Visitors will notice a significant change in the deer from mid-September,” explains Bill Swan, Bushy Park’s Assistant Park Manager. “The first obvious change is the sound of deer bellowing in the parks as a warning to their rivals. Soon enough, the dominant male deer will start to round up the females, and fighting with other deer may ensue in a bid to hold onto their harems.

“Although this all sounds incredibly exciting and a sight to behold, visitors need to be extremely vigilant, otherwise they could risk severe injury.

“It’s important to understand that deer may seem relaxed and subdued one minute, and then the next start suddenly chasing and fighting each other. Please don’t risk your safety, and that of children, by getting in the middle of the action. Keep your distance, and bring binoculars if you want a closer look.”

To report an injury to a dog or a deer, contact Richmond Park: 0300 061 2200 or email richmond@royalparks.org.uk.