Public urged to stop feeding wild deer in Dublin’s Phoenix Park

Public urged to stop feeding wild deer in Dublin’s Phoenix Park

Stag deer at Phoenix Park in

Visitors to Phoenix Park in Dublin are being urged to stop feeding wild deer as part of a new initiative to protect the animals.

The Office of Public Works has launched the ‘Protect Our Park – Don’t Feed the Deer’ campaign in response to a recent report from University College Dublin (UCD) highlighting the harmful impact of human diet on behavior and well-being of the park’s inhabitants. emblematic deer population.

The park is home to approximately 600 wild deer, which feed primarily on a diet of 90 percent grass and sometimes other vegetation.

Although feeding deer has always been banned by park authorities, visitors to the park have increasingly been feeding the animals in recent years, largely driven by social media, RTÉ reports.

The UCD report found that increased feeding by tourists and the public has significantly changed the health and natural behaviors of deer, disrupting their natural foraging instincts and causing them to seek human interaction. Deer’s dependence on humans for food affects their health and how they interact with other deer.

Some of the key findings from the UCD report showed:

• The deer were fed foods such as chocolate, crisps, soft drinks, bread and carrots.

• 25% of the park’s deer population now regularly approaches people to feed.

• Mothers who accept food from visitors tend to give birth to heavier fawns, continuing the cycle of dependence. Fawns of begging mothers are more likely to become begging individuals.

• Deer accepting artificial foods from visitors causes changes to their digestive systems, with long-term effects on their ability to digest natural foods.

• Male deer – who receive much lower quality food from the public (e.g. chips, chocolate, biscuits, etc.) than females (carrots and lettuce) – tend to have smaller antlers and are less successful during mating season.

• Male-female encounters are often disrupted by park visitors, which impacts the quality of males accessing females to reproduce. This leads to interference in sexual selection and female productivity.

• Deer in Phoenix Park tested positive for Covid-19, indicating that at some point humans transmitted the disease to them.

• Deer, when disturbed, form very tight groups and exhibit increased stress levels.

The new campaign aims to educate park visitors not to feed deer by installing educational signs throughout the park. Signage will highlight the importance of preserving natural deer behaviors and the potential dangers associated with feeding.

Failing to prevent visitors from feeding deer could have long-term consequences, including: increasing the risk of disease transmission, increasing the risk of human injury when deer forage for food from humans, and increasing deer stress with more unwanted human interactions.

Phoenix Park Superintendent Paul McDonnell. said: “Phoenix Park is renowned for its rich biodiversity, with the majestic deer being a treasured emblem of our natural heritage. While the appeal of these wild creatures is undeniable, it is imperative to recognize that they are precisely that: wild. Feeding them, far from being good for them, inflicts significant stress and damage on them. Interactions between humans and deer pose a significant safety risk, not only to the animals, but potentially to ourselves as well. The practice of feeding wild deer is dangerous to their well-being and must stop immediately. »

Park officials urge visitors to maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from deer and not engage in behavior that poses risks to deer or visitors. This includes feeding and posing for selfies.

Mr Kieran O’Donnell TD, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, said:

“By keeping our distance from deer and refraining from feeding them, visitors can play a pivotal role in safeguarding the future of these magnificent creatures, which have called Phoenix Park home for more than 350 years. Feeding disrupts the delicate ecological balance and could ultimately endanger the existence of the deer population in the park. Dubliners are extremely proud of Phoenix Park and it is a wonderful place to visit for locals and tourists alike. I ask all visitors to help us end this problem and keep these iconic deer safe in their natural habitat.

For more information about the “Protect Our Park – Don’t Feed the Deer” campaign and ways to support conservation efforts in Phoenix Park, please visit Phoenix Park.