Autumn is breeding season for the 1000 free-roaming red and fallow deer that call the Royal Parks of Richmond-upon-Thames home. Roam around Richmond Park or Bushy Park this month or next, and you could witness one of London's wildlife's great spectacles — but there are a few things Royal Parks wants you to know before heading out.
During mating season, which is known as the 'rut', dominant stags compete to mate with the hinds (female red deer) by roaring at their rivals. This can lead to a standoff between two males who may then lock horns for a formidable shoving match.
As the stags are flooded with testosterone and adrenaline during this time, it's more important than ever to keep your distance. Be sure to stay at least 50 metres away from these wild animals, both to avoid disrupting the rut and to preserve your own safety (being hit by a stag travelling at full speed is, we're told, the equivalent of being mown down by a motorbike!)
If you're taking the dog for a walk, make sure you keep your four-legged friend on a lead. During the rut, the biggest stags will hold 'harems', which sees them surrounded by hinds in season. For its own safety, it's crucial that your pooch doesn't get between a stag and his harem, though if a deer does approach your dog, the advice is to unleash your pet so it can run away.
With all that being said, rutting season is truly a wonder to behold from a distance. So pack a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for the incredible plant-based headdresses that stags sport in order to look more formidable.
For more info on rutting season and tips on how to stay safe when visiting Richmond Park or Bushy Park this autumn, click here.