How to Stay Safe in Richmond & Bushy Parks During Rutting Season

The Royal Parks is urging visitors to Richmond and Bushy parks to be extra vigilant and keep their distance from the wild deer as rutting season gets underway

Lead image: Photographing deer in Richmond Park (photo by Steve Fenton)

Autumn is a beautiful time of year for a stroll in the park, especially a glorious space like Richmond Park – the largest of London’s eight Royal Parks.

Home to the beautiful Isabella Plantation, Pembroke Lodge and hugely popular with cyclists, it is also famed for its herds of Red and Fallow deer. But during rutting season (breeding season), people’s desire to get close to nature can be a real problem.

The Royal Parks is urging visitors to Richmond Park – and also Bushy Park, where Red and Fallow deer still roam freely throughout the park, just as they did when Henry VIII used to hunt here – to be extra vigilant and keep a minimum distance of 50 metres away during the annual deer rut.

The plea comes as more photos emerge of visitors feeding, crowding, and petting wild deer pumped full of testosterone.

During rutting season – between late September and early November – male deer compete for breeding rights. Red stags and Fallow bucks, flooded with testosterone and adrenaline, fight off rivals by clashing antlers, in a bid to and attract as many female deer (hinds) as possible.

As Park Manager Simon Richards, explains: ‘Stags can have harems of up to 40 hinds, and they spend most of their day and night chasing challengers away and preventing hinds from straying, leaving little time for sleeping or eating.

‘This exhaustion and hunger, coupled with testosterone surging through their bodies, means they are in no mood for dogs spooking their hinds or humans getting in their face for a selfie,’ he adds.

How to stay safe

So how should you behave around the deer during rutting season? The Royal Parks has issued the following guidelines:

  • Keep a minimum distance of 50 metres away – the more space the better! Use binoculars if you want to get a better view
  • Keep dogs on leads or walk them elsewhere
  • Do not feed or touch the deer
  • Do not take photos of deer at close range
  • Never getting in between two rutting male deer

Over the years, there have been incidents where visitors have suffered injuries from rutting deer that could have been avoided. In 2018, a young girl being photographed next to a rutting stag was injured in Bushy Park, and the previous year a visitor was hospitalised after suffering injuries from a male deer in Richmond Park.

‘Deer rutting is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the UK,’ continues Richards. ‘If people say they love nature, then they must leave wild animals alone. By getting too close, and invading their space, visitors are not only risking serious injury, they are also disrupting the natural behaviour of the rut.’