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Red deer

Native to Europe, Asia, and a small part of Africa, the red deer has a glossy brown coat and distinctive light-coloured patch on its rump.

Since the nineteenth century, red deer have been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. Feral populations have established in all of these countries. In Queensland, red deer were originally released near Esk and are now found around the headwaters of the Brisbane, Mary and Burnett rivers.

Red deer can damage native and cultivated vegetation and pose a hazard to vehicles and humans.

They are listed as one of the world's 100 worst invasive alien species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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

Scientific name

Cervus elaphus

Description

  • Larger deer species, with stags standing up to 120cm at shoulder and weighing up to 220kg, hinds standing around 90cm and weighing up to 100kg.
  • Coat is glossy reddish brown to brown in summer, longer and brown to grey in winter.
  • Mature red deer have cream to straw-coloured rump patch.
  • Calves' coats at birth have white spots that fade and disappear by about 3 months of age.
  • Stags develop mane during winter.
  • Stags carry multi-tined antlers.

Habitat

  • Prefers open, grassy glades in forest.
  • Is grazer and browser, eating more woody matter and tree shoots when feed is scarce.

Distribution

  • Found around headwaters of Brisbane, Mary and Burnett Rivers.

Life cycle

  • Feral red deer form herds but sexes are apart for most of year. Older stags keep to themselves while hinds and younger animals form matriarchal herds that may be led by an older female.
  • Two sexes come together only during breeding season (in Queensland, from late March or early April for 6–12 weeks).
  • Adult hinds generally give birth to 1 calf (occasionally 2) after gestation of about 233 days.
  • Most active at dawn and dusk, feed more during darkness.

Crops affected

  • Crops, pasture, forestry, gardens.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Can damage natural environment by eating native vegetation, damaging trees, spreading 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 on suburban roads and highways.
  • Aggressive rutting stags can pose risk to humans, particularly in urban fringe areas where deer may become habituated to people.

Control

  • Preventing more deer from entering the wild is a key control strategy.
  • 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 shot but, if they are inadvertently shot, young should be found and euthenased.
Ground shooting
  • Although time-consuming and labour-intensive, ground shooting is most effective and humane technique to reduce 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 economical. Helicopter shooting also risks disturbing and dispersing deer population.
Recreational hunting
  • Hunting can reduce deer populations.
  • Several recreational hunting operators offer access to hunt wild deer on land holdings in Charters Towers area.

Trapping

  • Trapping may be option in some circumstances. Simplest form involves self-mustering trap.
  • 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.

Exclusion fencing

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

Legal requirements

  • Red 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 without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and 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 plants and 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