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Feral chital deer

Native to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka, chital (or axis) deer are relatively small deer with reddish-brown coats, white spots and white throats.

Chital were released north of Charters Towers in the late nineteenth century. Today, feral chital are found in this area and in pockets across Queensland, including near Townsville, Barcaldine and Texas. Much of Queensland is likely to be suitable for chital deer as long as their water requirements are met.

Feral chital deer can damage native and cultivated vegetation and pose a hazard to vehicles.

Chital deer contained within a deer-proof fence (e.g. on farms or in game parks) are not restricted invasive animals. Any chital deer not within a deer-proof fence is considered feral or wild and subject to control. Farmed deer that escape captivity quickly revert to a wild state.

Feral chital deer is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Axis axis

Other names

  • Axis deer, Indian spotted deer

Similar species

Description

  • Relatively small deer species, with stags standing about 86cm at shoulder and weighing up to 90kg, hinds smaller and weighing about 45kg.
  • Coat varies from rusty red to dark brown, with permanent white spots in broken lines along body and dark dorsal stripe along spine.
  • Throat is white and is prominent distinguishing feature.
  • Inner legs, stomach and under tail are also white to beige.
  • Tail is larger than those on most other deer.
  • Stags carry three-tined antlers on long, upright beam, usually 55-70cm long, but up to 90cm.

Habitat

  • Tropical or subtropical species.
  • Prefers woodlands, forests and clearings near waterways.
  • Permanent water is essential and has major influence on range.

Distribution

  • Found north of Charters Towers, Townsville, Barcaldine and Texas.

Life cycle

  • Lives in large herds consisting of many females and young accompanied by 2 or 3 stags.
  • Breeding is non-seasonal, but most stags are in hard antler in first half of year and most calves are born in second half of year.
  • Adult hinds give birth after gestation of about 234 days.
  • Twins and even triplets are not uncommon, contributing to rapid population growth.

Crops affected

  • Agricultural crops, pasture, forestry plantations, gardens.

Affected animals

  • livestock

Impacts

Environmental

  • Can damage natural environment by eating native vegetation, damaging trees, dispersing weed seeds, and fouling water.

Economic

  • Can damage forestry seedlings, agricultural and horticultural crops, commercial flower crops, orchards, irrigation systems, and fences.
  • Sometimes selectively consumes new growth and ringbarks orchard trees, leading to reduced orchard viability.
  • In dry seasons, competes with cattle for pasture and supplementary feed.

Social

  • Can be traffic hazard and cause car accidents in rural areas (generally not found near urban areas).

Control

  • Preventing more deer from entering the wild is key control strategy. It is an offence to allow farmed deer to escape into the wild.
  • Feral chital deer control is often best done as joint exercise involving all land managers. Councils and Landcare groups can help coordinate efforts.

Shooting

  • Shooting must be carried out by trained personnel with appropriate firearms licences. Shooters must possess necessary skill and judgment to kill deer with single shot. Lactating females should not be targeted but, if they are inadvertently shot, young should be found and euthanased.

Ground shooting

  • Although time-consuming and labour-intensive, ground shooting is the most effective and humane technique for reducing feral deer populations. Usually done at night from vehicle with spotlights.

Helicopter shooting

  • Helicopter shooting is effective in inaccessible areas such as broadacre crops, swamps and marshes. However, most new deer populations in Queensland are at comparatively low densities and in areas of thick cover where helicopter shooting is unlikely to be an economical option. Helicopter shooting also risks disturbing and dispersing feral deer populations.

Trapping

  • Trapping may be an option for feral deer control in some circumstances. Simplest form involves self-mustering trap.
  • Traps must be monitored and feral deer promptly tranquillised or euthanased after trapping. Deer mortalities of 3-7% post-trapping have been recorded in US studies, and animal welfare issues must be considered when using this method.

Exclusion Fencing

  • Exclusion fencing while expensive can be an effective method of protecting intensive agriculture from feral deer impacts.

Legal requirements

  • Feral chital deer is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, moved, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive  animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information