Amateur wildlife photographers who get too close to rutting red deer have been blamed for the failure of the animals to mate.

Amateur wildlife photographers who get too close to rutting red deer have been blamed for the failure of the animals to mate.

Conservationists fear that thousands of amateur photographers – hoping to witness red deer locking antlers in the early morning – are disturbing the animal during the mating season, according to an article published today by the Daily Telegraph.

The article says that wildlife TV programmes such as the BBC’s Autumnwatch have inspired members of the public to photograph the animals.

However, Amateur Photographer (AP) reader Matthew Hunt has swiftly defended photographers.

He emailed the magazine after a recent visit to Richmond Park with two friends: ‘The three of us stayed close together, approached the deer slowly and stopped when the deer took notice of us. We approached no further and spoke quietly, moved slowly, photographed them and cleared off.’

Matthew blamed the behaviour of the general public. ‘Two sets of people walked straight through the first herd we stopped at, including walking through a ‘harem’ between the stag and his females. The deer were disturbed and many of the females scattered,’ he wrote.

He said that a dog later ‘charged into a large group of fallow deer’.

On a previous occasion, at Knowle Park in Kent, Matthew said he saw many people ‘without cameras’ feeding deer and letting their small children chase them.

He added: ‘Maybe they are the disruptive element that disrupts the rut.’

This is not the first time that wildlife photographers have come under fire from conservationists.

Earlier this year Amateur Photographer reported that photographers were being blamed for a fall in the survival rates of nesting dipper birds in the Derbyshire Peak District.

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