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‘Keep dogs on lead’ plea as Harold Hill fawns face an early struggle to survive

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:14 19 June 2020

Smiling for the camera: The deer from Dagnam Park begin to settle in the estates. Picture: Andy Boorman

Smiling for the camera: The deer from Dagnam Park begin to settle in the estates. Picture: Andy Boorman

Andy Boorman

Harold Hill residents are being urged to stay away from the deer as birthing season is under way.

The fawn are cared for by South Essex Wildlife Hospital staff. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalThe fawn are cared for by South Essex Wildlife Hospital staff. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

Lockdown has caused the deer from the Dagnam Park reserve to settle in urban estates while the streets have been deserted, leading to births in car parks and footpaths.

As people begin to venture out as lockdown eases, dogs off leads and visitors are disturbing the births, says South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

The fawns need to be rehabilitated for up to six months. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalThe fawns need to be rehabilitated for up to six months. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

The hospital and charity Harold Hill Deer Aid (HHDA) have been on hand to rescue and rehabilitate the baby deer abandoned by their mothers because of the disturbance. They are finding “considerably more” fawns than normal for the time of year, with resources now becoming stretched.

Independent councillor for Gooshays ward and member of HHDA, Jan Sargent said: “We have seen unprecedented amounts of new visitors from out of borough, our park has not been closed and has been a lot busier since the lockdown.

A fawn at South Essex Wildlife Hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalA fawn at South Essex Wildlife Hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

“Also areas of the park have been opened up to allow more access to the public and this has caused an increase of issues with litter, dogs off leads, barbecue fires, vandalism, and scrambler and quad bikes.”

Cllr Sargent says that it’s combination of these factors and the birthing season that is causing an increase in rescue missions.

The Harold Hill estates have been sharing their gardens with the new residents. Picture: Andy BoormanThe Harold Hill estates have been sharing their gardens with the new residents. Picture: Andy Boorman

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South Essex Hospital manager Sue Schwar explains how the deer come in their care: “The deer in Harold Hill tend to wander around the estate anyway but what’s happening is that because of the pandemic there’s not as many people on the streets, wild animals have been spreading out a bit further and the fawns have been turning up in car parks and footpaths because those areas have been quiet and they’ve got use to people not being there.

The fawns are nursed to health at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalThe fawns are nursed to health at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

“The deer are very sensitive and once their fawns have been touched or moved the mothers will reject them; and if it’s a case of mum doesn’t come back, particularly when they’re newborn, they’re not going to last very long.

“When they’re born, mum’s got to lick them dry and get them nursed, and that all has to happen straight away without interruption.

Deer knibble on the lawn of a house in Harold Hill. Picture: Kimberley ElliottDeer knibble on the lawn of a house in Harold Hill. Picture: Kimberley Elliott

“They think they are giving birth somewhere fairly quiet and now obviously people are starting to go out more now and the deer don’t know that there’s going to be this sudden influx of people.”

Sue says that now people are out walking their dogs, it’s causing a conflict because they are not being kept on leads.

Fawn graze at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalFawn graze at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

She added: “If a dog then approaches them and sniffs them and licks them, then to the doe their baby smells of wolf, a predator, and she won’t go anywhere near them.”

In the same way that cats disturb birds’ nests around this time of year and bring in chicks, the hospital does receive a few fawns every year, but nothing like this year’s amount.

Fawn graze at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife HospitalFawn graze at the wildlife hospital. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

The fawns are often sent on to other rehabilitation centres for about six months, until they are old enough to look after themselves in the wild.

It is essential to remember to keep dogs on leads at all times near the Dagnam Park reserve and Harold Hill estates.


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