PHOTOGRAPHERS in the New Forest have been accused of risking accidents by getting too close to deer during the rutting season.

Forestry England has reported cases of herds running towards roads as they try to get away from people attempting to take their picture.

A Forestry England spokeswoman said photographers were getting "unacceptably close" to the animals in their quest to capture the perfect image.

"This has dramatically affected deer behaviour with the wild herd not able to move freely and in some cases they have been pushed towards nearby roads," she said.

Professional and amateur photographers are said to be approaching deer in various parts of the Forest.

The problem tends to occur every summer and autumn but is worse this year because coronavirus restrictions have resulted in more people visiting areas such as the New Forest instead of holidaying abroad.

The five species of deer found in the area - fallow, red, sika, roe and muntjac - each behave slightly differently during the breeding season.

The red deer mating season, known as the rut, starts in mid-September and lasts until early November.

The Wild New Forest conservation group has banned pictures of red deer on its social media channels to discourage people from photographing them.

Director Russell Wynn said: "The unusual circumstances associated with Covid-19 mean the Forest continues to attract unprecedented visitor numbers for the time of year, leading to a continuation of issues such as verge parking, littering, and disturbance to wildlife.

"I've unfortunately witnessed photographers and dog walkers ignoring the signs and entering areas where red deer are resting, causing unnecessary disturbance and stress to the animals.

"The autumn rut is an exhausting and crucially important time for the red deer, and it's therefore vital they are left undisturbed.

"It's only a minority of people who are getting too close but it's significant enough to cause an issue for deer and other forms of wildlife."

The British Deer Society says everyone should stay at least 100m away from deer during the rutting season.

A spokesperson said: "Be inconspicuous – use binoculars for close up viewing. Pay special attention to any signs put up by the authorities and follow their advice."

"If there are a large number of people present do not surround the deer as it may make them nervous.

"Always leave them an open line of retreat if they need it."