Visitors of London’s largest Royal Park appear to get dangerously close to aggressively rutting stags. 

Between September and November, the 600 deer in Richmond Park go through their ‘rutting’ or mating season, with stags fighting over females. Male stags will roar, bark and clash antlers during this season, to fight off rivals and attract females. 

Males, during this season, are pumped with testosterone and adrenaline, and by spending their time guarding their females, they have little time for eating and sleeping and can become highly aggressive. This means that deer can feel threatened by dogs or humans, even if they have not been provoked. Royal Parks, wanting to ensure the safety of their visitors and their pets, have advised visitors to stay at least 50 metres away from deer, especially rutting stags; that no close range photography can be taken of deers; and that dogs should be exercised elsewhere. 

However, even after warning signs have been placed at important areas across the park, visitors appear to refuse to heed advice, with photographers and young families getting dangerously near to stags. The Royal Parks Police warned that deer are ‘wild animals and can cause you injury’ on Twitter, after a young woman was injured whilst taking a photo dangerously close to a deer on the 11th of October. 

A local resident stated that deer could be seen ‘bellowing’ and ‘running into one another with their antlers’, later stating that when the deers run there is ‘panic’ among the onlookers. A local GP, observing the situation, said that ‘a deer is an unpredictable and wild animal and could seriously injure people, which could be fatal’. Although some local residents are aware of the dangers posed by rutting stags, many continue to venture too near, with some local residents on the community social media app Nextdoor saying that they weren’t sure whether to heed the advice or not because of the number of people ignoring it. 

Severe injuries can occur during the rutting seasons and, in 2017, a woman was severely injured after having been attacked by a rutting stag. Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manager, stated that their advice is ‘for the wellbeing of our deer and park visitors’ on the Royal Parks Website. 

Growing visitor numbers place great pressure on the wildlife of Richmond Park with Sir David Attenborough saying that the park’s wildlife has ‘never been under greater pressure’ at the reopening of the park’s Poet’s Corner in 2015. Having around 5.5 million visitors a year and being one of the largest urban parks in Europe, Richmond Park’s nature reserve status is coming under strain. 

With visitors being urged to keep a safe distance from deer in their parks, this new chapter in the debate between the Royal Parks and its visitors does nothing to remedy Richmond Park’s dilemma between nature reserve and tourist attraction.