Phoenix Park deers’ behaviour ‘altered by people feeding them chocolate and crisps’

Stags fed low-quality food have smaller antlers, impacting their mating success, according to UCD study

Stags locked in combat in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Deer in Dublin’s Phoenix Park have been fed chocolate, crisps, fizzy drinks and other low-quality foods by visitors, altering the animals’ natural behaviour, a report into the urban herd has found.

A campaign, entitled Protect Our Park – Don’t Feed The Deer, has been unveiled by the Office of Public Works in response to the report by University College Dublin that reported unhealthy consequences of feeding.

Male deer have been fed lower-quality food compared to female deer, resulting in smaller antlers and impacting their success rate during mating season, the report found.

Human feeding has also increased the animals’ dependency on artificial food, with 25 per cent now regularly approaching visitors for food.


Female deer that eat artificial food items are giving birth to heavier fawns, disrupting the female’s natural productive cycle, while deer that seek food from humans are more likely to pass that trait on to their young.

The Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kieran O’Donnell, said: “By keeping our distance from the deer and refraining from feeding them, visitors can play a pivotal role in safeguarding the future of these magnificent creatures, who have called the Phoenix Park home for over 350 years.

“Feeding disrupts the delicate ecological balance and could ultimately jeopardise the deer population’s existence in the park,” he said.

“Dubliners take immense pride in the Phoenix Park, and it is a wonderful place to visit for locals and tourists. I am asking all visitors to support this campaign and keep these iconic deers safe in their natural home.”

Visitors have been advised to keep a distance of at least 50m (164ft) from the deer and not to engage in any behaviour that poses risk to the deer or to themselves, including feeding and taking selfies.

Educational signs indicating the long-term ramifications of unnatural feeding – including increased risk of disease transmission, human injuries and stress for the animal due to unwanted interactions – will be installed throughout the park.