Taking stunning pictures of the deer in the beautiful surroundings of Richmond and Bushy Parks has become synonymous with many photographers visiting the parks year-round.

Yet images showing the lengths some photographers are going to for their perfect shot have prompted stern warnings from the Royal Parks authority who manage the parks.

Recent photographs and footage passed to Royal Parks and reproduced by the Richmond Twickenham Times showed groups of photographers approaching very close to deer on several occasions, breaking park guidance that implores visitors to keep at least 50 metres away from the deer at this time of year for the safety and wellbeing of the animals and themselves.

In footage from Bushy Park, one resting stag with sharp antlers, is so disturbed by the photographers’ proximity, that it suddenly stands up and moves away.

In response, Royal Parks issued a warning that urged visitors to the parks to keep their distance, not least at this time of year which is the deer mating season known as the "rut".

Phil Edwards, Bushy Park Manager commented on the video: "Of course it's disrespectful to get this close to wild animals, however what I really struggle to understand is why these photographers are taking such obvious risks with their own safety. These animals are wild and therefore unpredictable, and during the rut stags and bucks are pumped full of testosterone.. Furthermore, they can weigh upwards of 25 stone and travel up to 30mph, so getting hit by one is the equivalent of being mown down by a motorbike.

"Richmond and Bushy Parks are very special because the wild deer roam freely, and animal lovers can observe them behaving naturally from a distance. What’s not a pretty picture is seeing these majestic animals followed, cornered, sometimes even enticed so that people can get the ‘perfect’ shot of them. Keep Wildlife Wild by leaving them alone, and just give them a bit of respect."

Male deer compete for breeding rights during autumn. Red stags and bucks and "flooded with testosterone and adrenaline" Royal Parks pointed out, as they "roar and clash antlers in a bid to fight off rivals and attract as many hinds and does as possible".

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There have been a number of incidents in recent years where visitors have been injured by deer at the parks. For example, in 2018, a young girl who was being photographed next to a rutting stag was injured in Bushy Park, and in the previous year a visitor was hospitalised after suffering injuries from a male deer in Richmond Park.

All incidents almost exclusively happen when people get closer than the recommended 50 metres, Royal Parks said.

Charles Smith-Jones, Technical Adviser for the British Deer Society added the following: "No matter how relaxed park deer may seem about human presence, never forget that they are wild animals. Please give them plenty of space and enjoy the spectacle of the rut from a sensible distance. This is not just to avoid disturbing them at this important part of the deer year but is very much for your own safety as well."

Royal Parks safety advice for visitors during the rut is as follows:

  • Keeping a minimum distance of 50 metres away. The more space the better, especially during rutting season. If visitors want a better view, they should bring binoculars
  • Keeping dogs on leads or walking them elsewhere
  • Abiding by the British Deer Society’s Code of Conduct.
  • Never getting in between two rutting deer