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Feral fallow deer

Originally native to Iran and Iraq, fallow deer are an attractive species that generally have a tan or fawn coat. The European fallow (sometimes known as ‘park deer’) is the subspecies widely kept on deer farms and in parks. Internationally, it has been maintained in semi-captive conditions or as an introduced animal since the days of the Roman Empire.

Fallow deer are now found in captivity and in the wild in most European countries. Fallow deer have also been introduced to the USA, Australia and New Zealand. They were introduced to southern Queensland in the late nineteenth century.

Fallow deer contained within a deer-proof fence (e.g. on farms or in game parks) are not restricted invasive pests. Any fallow 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 fallow deer can damage native and cultivated vegetation and pose a hazard to vehicles and humans.

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

Scientific name

Dama dama

Similar species

Description

  • Attractive deer species, with bucks standing up to 90cm at shoulder and weighing around 90kg, and does standing around 76cm at shoulder and weighing up to 42kg.
  • Coat is most commonly tan or fawn with white spots on flanks (but 4 colour varieties exist).
  • Winter coat is longer and greyer with indistinct spots.
  • Fawns are born with coat similar to adult's summer coat.
  • Menil variety has paler coat and keeps white spots all year, lacking black-bordered rump.
  • Black fallow deer are almost entirely black with no white coloration.
  • White fallow are white to sandy, with coat whiter at adulthood.
  • Tail is long, black on top, white underneath, surrounded by white rump patch outlined in black.
  • Heart-shaped rump patch is a distinguishing feature.
  • Antlers of adult fallow bucks (over 3 years) are flattened and palmate with numerous points, increasing in size with age, up to 70cm long.
  • Alarmed deer have bouncy gait.

Habitat

  • Found in temperate environments and less suited to hot conditions than other introduced deer species.
  • Prefers open, grassy glades in forest, with dense understorey a favoured retreat.
  • Generally grazes on grassy areas; browses trees and shrubs more when other feed is scarce.
  • Most active at dawn and dusk; feeds more during darkness.

Distribution

  • Established populations found west of Stanthorpe, with scattered populations around Warwick.

Life cycle

  • Mature bucks live apart from does until start of rut.
  • During rut, dominant bucks herd groups of does, mark out territories and rutting stands, and mate on territories.
  • Bucks can be aggressive and dangerous when rutting.
  • Breeding season usually begins April and lasts 6-8 weeks, with males aggressive until early August.
  • Adult does give birth to single fawn after gestation of about 230 ays.

Crops affected

  • Various agricultural crops, pasture, forestry.

Affected animals

  • Humans

Impacts

Environmental

  • Feral fallow deer 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.
  • In orchards, feral fallow deer sometimes selectively eat new growth and ringbark trees, leading to reduced orchard viability.
  • In dry seasons, feral deer can compete with cattle for pasture and supplementary feed.

Social

  • Can be hazards on suburban roads and highways.
  • Aggressive stags can be danger to humans in built-up areas.

Control

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

Shooting

  • Shooting must be carried out by trained personnel with appropriate firearms licences. Shooters must possess necessary skill and judgment to kill feral deer with a single shot. Lactating females should not be shot, but, if they are inadvertently shot, young should be found and euthanased.
Ground shooting
  • Although time-consuming and labour-intensive, ground shooting is most effective and humane technique to reduce feral deer populations. Such shooting is 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 economical. Helicopter shooting also risks disturbing and dispersing deer populations.

Trapping

  • Traps must be monitored and deer promptly tranquilised 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.
  • Trapping may be option for feral deer control in some circumstances. Simplest form involves self-mustering trap.

Exclusion Fencing

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

Legal requirements

  • Feral fallow deer is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be, 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