Feeding deer at Dublin’s Phoenix Park poses a “serious risk” to humans and wildlife, according to a new study.
The University College Dublin (UCD) study found that deer feeding is linked to artificial selection for harassment behavior, meaning the country could see deer harassing humans for food in a few years.
The research, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, monitored the fallow deer population at Phoenix Park and found that fawns born to mothers who constantly begged for food were significantly heavier than those whose mothers rarely approached visitors.
Each of the 134 fawns measured came from the same flocks, on the same ranges, and all came from mothers who had done so
equal opportunity to interact with people.
Lead author Laura Griffin said that this begging behavior trait is associated with animals with bolder personality types, which could lead to animals becoming more aggressive to obtain food.
“In other words, if no action is taken, in 10 years you could end up with deer constantly harassing people because the boldest individuals have been selected, which clearly poses huge risks to the people and animals involved,” she said.
The study found that the overall deer population in Phoenix Park fell into three categories: constant beggars, occasional beggars, and infrequent beggars.
The deer that begged more received the greatest amount of human food, and this included bread, chips, carrots, apples, and biscuits, leading them to drastically feed on those classified as infrequent and occasional beggars.
Feeding deer in Phoenix Park is prohibited by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
People often say it allows them to feel a connection with the animals, that they believe they are helping them in some way, and that it makes good content on social media, Ms Griffin said.
“Videos and images of people feeding wild animals often go viral on various social media platforms,” she said.
“Nonetheless, it is fundamental that we pause to examine how these interactions affect the wildlife involved, particularly as these interactions are typically self-motivated and [that we]are working to test methods aimed at reducing their impact through public education that can also be applied to other sites where similar interactions are occurring.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/feeding-deer-in-phoenix-park-poses-a-threat-to-both-humans-and-wildlife-41890881.html Feeding deer in Phoenix Park poses a threat to humans and wildlife