The public has been warned not to feed Dublin’s Phoenix Park deer this Christmas to prevent malnourishment and stress among the animals.
Families have been asked to instead write a letter to “Rudolph” which can be posted at any of three specially installed Christmas post boxes in the park.
Increasingly large numbers of visitors are causing “undue stress” to the wild animals, the Office of Public Works (OPW) said.
The OPW is for the first time issuing an appeal to the public to stay at least 50m from the animals, and in particular not to offer food, park superintendent Paul McDonnell said.
— Phoenix Park (@phoenixparkopw) November 27, 2020
“Deer have been the subject of many books and films and have a special place in our hearts. However, these depictions often make them appear domesticated which they are not,” he said.
“The park provides the perfect feeding habitat for the deer and other food such as carrots or bread are harmful and actually cause malnourishment and long-term harm.”
While the number of visitors to the park had increased significantly since the coronavirus outbreak, the OPW is concerned about interactions with the park’s more than 500 deer in the run up to Christmas, given their association with Santa Claus.
“As an alternative to feeding the deer the staff of the Phoenix Park have set up a number of post boxes for children to drop off letters to Rudolf,” the OPW said.
These will be located at the car parks for the Papal Cross, visitor centre and the camogie grounds off Chesterfield Avenue.
“We are asking all families with young children to use these as way to show their concern for the well-being of the wild deer.”