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Phoenix Park deer caused 'undue stress' by increase in visitors during pandemic

Instead of feeding the deer, the staff of the Phoenix Park have set up a number of post boxes for children to drop off their letters to Rudolf.
Dec 2nd 2020, 2:45 PM 21,668 30

A WARNING HAS been issued to people not to approach the wild deer in the Phoenix Park, as a State body has said that recent research showed they are under more stress than usual due to the volume of people in the Dublin park. 

The Office of Public Works (OPW) which runs the Park and manages the deer, said that the increase in visitors is made “significantly worse” by people trying to get close to the wild deer to take selfies with them, or to feed them.

The OPW listed the following as some of the “potential impacts” that an increase in human interactions can have on the deer:

  • Malnourishment – the park provides the perfect feeding habitat for the deer and other food such as carrots or bread are harmful
  • Offering food can cause competition among the deer resulting in injuries and high stress levels
  • Close contact can cause the exchange of disease between wild animals and humans
  • The deer are wild and therefore unpredictable and potentially dangerous
  • They can move at great speed and strength if taken by surprise, such as by sudden human movements
  • As the Christmas season comes close – a time when deer have a significant role to play – we are asking visitors to keep their distance, 50m or more, and not to engage in behaviour that poses risks to the deer or the visitor, especially children. This includes feeding the deer and posing for selfies.

Park Superintendent Paul McDonnell said that it was understandable that people want to get close to the deer.

“They are beautiful wild animals, and as we experience the loss of wildlife around us we are naturally drawn to engage with it when we see it. Deer have been the subject of many books and films and have a special place in our hearts.

“However, these depictions often make them appear domesticated which they are not. It has led many of us to believe that we are being helpful when we give them carrots or bread but we are causing significant long term harm to the animals and potentially ourselves.

The wild deer also pose a significant threat of injury, especially to young people given their size and potentially erratic behaviour.

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As an alternative to feeding the deer, the staff of the Phoenix Park have set up a number of post boxes for children to drop off their letters to Rudolf.

These will be located at the Papal Cross Car Park, the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre Car Park and the Camogie Grounds Car Park off Chesterfield Avenue in the run up to Christmas and we are asking all families with young children to use these as way to show their concern for the well-being of the wild deer.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan said that the impact of human interaction with wildlife around the world “is posing significant dangers for animal populations and humans”.

Ireland is not alone in this shift in human desire to engage directly with nature so it is imperative that we work to help the public understand that if we want to protect and care for the wild fallow deer herd that have lived in the park for over the past 350 years that we adjust our behaviour.
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Gráinne Ní Aodha

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