Protesters took to the streets of Kingston against Richmond and Bushy Park’s annual deer cull on Saturday.

The park will close to the public at about 8pm tonight.

The cull is done to sustain the number of deer and avoid the spread of disease of the 630 deer in Richmond Park, with 170 to 200 new births each year.

Over a three to four-week period, trained marksmen enter the park and shoot the deer with high powered rifles in the way deemed most humane – one shot through the head.

Organiser Lesley Dove said before the march: “We believe the deer cull is cruel and unnecessary. People have been saying they hear shots and the cries of the terrified deer.”

But Ron Crompton, of Friends of Richmond Park, said: “You can’t keep increasing herd numbers.

“Scientific research has shown the park can only support 630 deer each year so we have got to reduce the herd.”

Carcasses are then sold on the open market to wholesalers and profits go back into the running of the park.

A spokesman for Royal Parks said contraception was not a feasible option as there was currently no licensed contraception for deer in the UK.

He said: “Attempting to maintain too many deer within a restricted park area would soon lead to a build-up of parasites and other pathogens causing disease in the deer.”

Last year about 20 people turned up at the war memorial in Hampton Wick and walked into Kingston.