Richmond deer 'put off mating' by photographers
Photographers desperate to capture stags clashing antlers during rutting season could threaten the herd's future at a London park, wardens warned.
During the autumn breeding period, male deer roar, grunt and fight their rivals to impress potential mates.
The spectacle at Richmond Park in south-west London often draws crowds of camera-carrying nature lovers.
"The most I've seen is 60 photographers encircling a stag," said Adam Curtis, the park's assistant manager.
He explained that the photographers' behaviour in the deer mating season could "disturb natural selection".
"The stags or bucks try to keep groups of females in one place, which is physically exhausting," he said.
"If they are disturbed while trying to entertain their harem, the dominant stags don't get the opportunity to mate and when the females come into season at a later date, young bachelors mate with the females instead.
"This could affect the quality of the herd.
"If they mate later, the females could also give birth over a longer period of time, which means they would be more vulnerable for longer," he said.
Richmond Park has the "most photographed deer in the world," said Mr Curtis.
Typically, he sees "20 to 30 people crowding around a deer" on a daily basis during mating season, with more at weekends.
He warned that people and their dogs risk serious injury if they get too close.
"This year, a deer caught sight of its own reflection in a car and head-butted it, thinking it was another deer," Mr Curtis said.
"It must have been scary for the person inside."