Are the deer in Richmond Park (London) wild?

I just had a discussion about an observation of deer in Richmond Park (London). I marked the observation as cultivated. The other user did not agree. Am I wrong about it, though?

Richmond Park was created in the 17th century as a deer park for the king to go hunting. Today it is famous for the ca. 630 red and fallow deer that roam the area “freely”. Most of the deer observations there are not marked as cultivated. However, the park is still an enclosure, which means the animals cannot leave the area at all. As a result the population of deer cannot sustain itself and about 200 animals have tobe culled annually. The meat is then sold to licensed game dealers (from wikipedia). It seems to me the orginal purpose of the park has not changed through the centuries. Is this really any different from livestock farming? I just don’t want to come across as an a*hole who marks other people’s observation as cultivated for no reason. Is there a general consensus or guideline about this issue?


I agree with you: the deer are in an enclosure that they cannot move in and out of, they are tame, and they are actively fed in the winter months. Seems like a no-brainer to me.


This seems like a clear-cut captive case to me.


Since they cannot jump the fence and are protected from predation, and then harvested for sale, that sounds very captive!


I would be a little cautious, and be sure to consult the major identifiers of deer and similar animals directly - maybe tag them into the conversation you were having. There are quite a lot of these ‘managed herds’ in the UK, from deer, where some examples may seem clear cut, through to things like the Dartmoor ponies which live fairly wildly, but have been confined to the moor, and do have people looking out for their welfare - and every gradation between. If they are not normally being marked as captive it may be that it is difficult to know where to draw the line and trying to differentiate each case is not worthwhile to those with an interest in these animals. There would probably be quite a lot of reclassifying of observations to be done if you wanted to apply this consistently.


I agree that this likely meets the definition of “not wild” for the purposes of iNat, though I can see how lots of users (perhaps unaware of all that info or iNat’s definitions) would consider them semi-wild.

However, I think it’s also worth thinking about the value of marking all of these observations as “not wild”. Is raising the ire of users by ticking them all as not wild going to have a positive impact that outweighs the negative? If this is an otherwise natural part of the deers’ range, then the impact of them being RG is likely low. And if the population is well known, it is unlikely to have a negative impact on research projects.

If you do want to tick them as not wild, I would make some sort of stock comment noting what your doing, explaining it and giving a link with more info so that observers can learn about the system. I’d also be ready to engage in some conversations with users to help them out.


To me it seems less clear. For me, the following rule could be taken as a definition of captive/not captive:

Is the fence there to keep the deer in? => captive
Is it just a regular park fence with open gates through the day, where technically, the deer could wander out freely? => not captive

I suspect the fence is a regular one with open gates, the deer just don’t want to get out, because the surrounding habitat is not suitable.

Hunting as well as surplus feeding are not arguments for captive in my opinion, there is a lot of wild population that depend on that/don’t have predators and are hunted. I also guess, besides hunting and surplus feeding (which I think as mentioned is not automatically sufficient for captive), there is no medical treatment, no animals removed/replaced, they are not managed in any other way. Their introduction status doesn’t change that for me. Other animals have been introduced at some point. At least some birders consider a population wild, if it can move freely and the population is self-sustaining.

It is a bit a grey area I agree, but personally I think not captive.

1 Like

if we really want to start a discussion captive/not captive, we can discuss about predator-fenced areas in Australia and New Zealand :wink:


For a bit more context, here’s the website for the park:

While they refer to the deer as “wild animals” (mostly it seems to get people to give them space and not get too close), they also note:
“The British Deer Society and the Deer Initiative of England and Wales fully endorse humane culling as best practice in deer herd management and The Royal Parks is an expert manager of enclosed wild deer herds. The deer in the Royal Parks are under veterinary supervision and all aspects of their welfare are monitored regularly”
This implies a fairly high level of management and enclosure.


For what it’s worth my inclination would be that there is no value in marking them as captive, and might rub a few folk up the wrong way for no gain. Interesting that the park describe them as ‘enclosed wild herds’! But (aside from a couple of observations of my own) I have no dog in this fight. And if I did, it would be on a lead. Obviously.

1 Like

Personally, it sounds like they are a self-sustaining population. Confined, and have to be hunted, but do they ever have to artificially add deer to the population?

Comparing them to say Greater Prairie Chickens in southern IL, new chickens have to be brought in periodically to beef up the population, but that’s considered wild. they even artificially control the predator population in the area of the GPCH.

Also having to hunt them because they lack natural predators is something we get with deer in my area as well.

So I would ask, is anyone feeding them or providing medical aid or adding to the population artificially?


As mentioned earlier in this thread, yes, the deer receive veterinary care.


This is a fairly popular subject on iNat. There are a couple voluminous topics discussing captive/cultivated vs wild. They contain many interesting and valid points of view; but I don’t recall there is a ever a consensus reached (so far).

1 Like

(1) Culling is used in many other parts of the world as a form of conservation management. For example in British Columbia there is a wolf cull:

Since 2015, hundreds of B.C. wolves have been killed as part of the government cull, which involves aerial shooting of the animals from helicopters. According to a government report from 2021, 237 wolves were killed last winter.

The cull has been billed by the province as a short-term measure to support caribou populations, which have been struggling following habitat loss and changes, making them more vulnerable to predators.

British Columbia also controls and plans for the deer population and allows hunting / harvest to be done with objectives to maintain the population at a stable and set size

Does that mean that wolves, caribou, or deer are no longer “wild” because humans hunt them with the aim of population management?

(2) Geographic features, as well as constructed features, often result in animals being unable to leave a place. That does not make those animals non-wild. It just makes them an isolated (or disjunct) population.

The same kind of management even happens in smaller areas, such as islands (where the deer are not free to leave). And fences are employed to further limit the ability of the deer to move freely. This is done in conjunction with hunting to ensure that the population remains sustainable – particularly important since there are no predators. This applies to all deer on Galiano Island, BC.

Are those deer no longer “wild” because they are on an island and subject to culling by humans?

Livestock are typically not native to the area. Additionally, livestock are subject to numerous other interventions including vaccination, supplementary nutrition, veterinary care, and regular handling by humans. From descriptions that I’ve read of Richmond Park, the deer do not receive these benefits or interactions. In fact, humans are advised to remain at least 50 m away from the deer in Richmond Park due to their potentially aggressive response to humans.

These deer are wild and although they are harvested, they are not livestock.

1 Like

Livestock can be very dangerous, too. Most bison farmers don’t get near their animals unless they have too.

I’ve been there. I’m not sure there is a direct answer to wild or not, I can understand people claiming they are wild - they certainly once were, but the place seemed really manicured to me: like you can’t say a safari park is wild animals by iNat definitions, it would be cultivated. I wouldn’t say the deer at Richmond Park were tame, and they certainly could escape if they wanted from what I saw (but why would they? everything is provided for them there, and they are safe from predators), and they had no fear of people, so at this point I would vote captive managed herd, not wild managed herd.


Thank you all for your input. Personally I will probably stick to the opinion that even though the deer are not domesticated per se they are still managed and controlled by humans to such a high degree that I can’t really say they are wild. Yes, the park may withing the natural range of those species but I can’t think of an example of an actual natural population deer living in the middle of such a large city. Of course I’m not going to mark all of them as captive now (I’m kinda with @matthewvosper in this regard).

I didn’t know they were under veterinary supervision but it makes sense if you think about it. Any sort of pest would probably wreak havoc in the population in such a samll area and thus endanger humans as well.


Richmond Park and Bushy Park’s deer are wild creatures that can be unexpected. Our parks are nature preserves, and wild deer populations roam freely.

From the Richmond Park link - we manage enclosed wild deer herds
Been there since 1637.

1 Like

It is a long time since I was in Richmond Park so I can’t remember the details, but I am sure the deer cannot get out. It would be carnage if they were running around in London.

Someone mentioned them being native. Red deer are native to Britain, fallow deer not.

1 Like