Forestry England asks photographers to stay away from rutting New Forest red deer
PHOTOGRAPHERS are being urged to steer clear of New Forest red deer during the rutting season after safety warnings that the unwanted attention is pushing the animals towards busy roads.
The rut runs until mid-November and is when competing stags show off to the hinds and fight to establish dominance over rival males.
The annual sight makes for dramatic footage but now Forestry England is asking the public to stay out of a number of red deer resting areas.
Its local head of wildlife, Andy Page, said: “Unfortunately, each year many people are getting unacceptably close to the deer during the rutting season and are disturbing them.
“This has dramatically affected deer behaviour, with the wild herd not able to move freely and, in some cases, they have been pushed towards nearby roads.”
The warning comes just days after a motorcyclist was seriously hurt on the B3078 Roger Penny Way after swerving to avoid a stag in the road.
Commoner Jacqui Vanderhoek, who helped the casualty at the roadside, said: “Accidents involving deer can be very serious for the passengers of the vehicle as well as the animals. It is not unusual to come across deer in the road, especially at this time of year.”
In addition to staying out of red deer quiet zones, which are marked with signage, the public are also asked to stick to main Forest tracks, keep dogs on a lead when deer may be close, keep a good distance, and use binoculars to watch from afar.
A dominant stag will mate with all the females in its harem, which can be 20 or more hinds.
Mr Page continued: “Specific areas of the New Forest are important for the protection of wild deer, it’s where they rest and feed.
“It’s vital that people watch deer from a safe distance and don’t disturb the wild deer. We ask photographers to follow the British Deer Society’s code of conduct, in order to keep themselves safe and allow the deer to behave naturally.”
He added: “The New Forest is a wonderful place to see deer in their natural environment, but it is important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated with respect.
“Drivers should watch out for wild deer on Forest roads at night, or early in the morning, at this time of year.
“Extra care should be taken if you’re driving on unfamiliar roads and be wary of not just one deer crossing the road – it’s best to stop and wait a moment as they often travel in groups.”
The red deer is the largest land mammal in the UK, with mature stags reaching a height of 140cm and a weigh of up to 190kgs.
The growth of the antlers is driven by testosterone and peaks in the early autumn when the rut starts. The deer’s testosterone levels drop in the early winter and the antlers eventually drop off. Regrowth begins again in the spring, usually bigger and better than the year before.