Dogs chasing Bradgate Park deer could be 'shot'
Dog owners have been warned their pets could be shot if they endanger the lives of deer at a country park.
Signs at Leicestershire's Bradgate Park warn pet owners of the potential consequences following a fall in the number of red deer calves.
Wardens said the drop in numbers is due to red deer being "stressed out" when they are chased by dogs off the leash.
The park - between Leicester and Loughborough - is now warning it could take years to rebuild the herd.
About a quarter of the park's deer population is red deer.
As part of its annual deer count, rangers had expected to find between 35 and 40 calves, but found just 12.
They also discovered a number of pregnant females had suffered miscarriages due to the stress of being chased.
Head ranger Matt Smith said: "I have been working with the deer at Bradgate for nearly 20 years and I can never remember us having this few red deer.
"They are magnificent animals and if we lose them it will be a tragedy.
"Even if we have no more losses, it will take several years to build the herd.
"Dogs will chase any deer, but the red seem to be more vulnerable than the fallow because of the different ways in which the two species behave."
Owners are being encouraged to only let a dog off its lead if they are confident it will not run away.