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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Sam Boal/ Deer in the Pheonix Park.
oh deer

People feeding Phoenix Park deer is harming the herd, researcher warns

People are being urged to “let the wildlife stay wild”.

A RESEARCHER STUDYING the deer in Dublin’s Phoenix Park has warned the public that the food they are giving the animals is having a huge negative impact on the wild herd.

UCD student Laura Griffin has spent four summers studying the deer and has seen first hand the problems people feeding them can cause.

“We have seen them be fed bread. We have seen them being fed chocolate, biscuits, crisps, popcorn,” the PhD researcher said.

Even sandwiches with chicken and ham in them are being fed to the deer- all of which should not be fed to them.

“It’s like junk food to the deer,” Griffin told the News at One on RTÉ.

Griffin’s observation fieldwork in the Park is part of her PhD study with the Laboratory of Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour at UCD and is funded by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Griffin explained that, while people think they are doing something beneficial for the herd, it can actually have a negative effect on their health.

Feeding the deer is also prohibited by the OPW, which runs the Park and manages the deer.

“People love the deer, and while they could be bringing in carrots, apples, oats and they think this is part of the deers’ natural diet, but it’s not. Especially not in the quantity they are getting,” she said.

There is physiological effects for the deer as a result. Some of them may grow smaller antlers which will have a huge complication for them during the rut, because they use their antlers for sexual competition. 

“If your antlers are smaller, they’re more than likely to lose, which means they will have less mating opportunities. You’re actually putting them at a disadvantage,” Griffin added.

Feeding deer can also negatively impact their gastrointestinal tract and approaching them results in significant stress behaviours with female deer, especially during the summer when their fawns are young.

“You’ll get the best interaction with the deer if you keep a safe distance of 50 meters, and just see them behaving naturally,” Griffin said.

You’ll see the fawns playing, see them suckling. Just let the deer be deer in their home and let the wildlife stay wild.

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