Size: Large. Stags up to 158 kg and 122 cm at shoulder. Hinds up to 92 kg.
Behavour: Gregarious. Sexes remain apart most of the year. Hinds and young form matriarchal herds. During the rut of 6-12 weeks, stags fight for females and form harems up to 50 hinds. Grazers and browsers. Diurnal. Peak activity at dawn and dusk.
Breeding: Usually give birth to a single calf.
Bioclimatic (predicted) distribution: High habitat suitability in southern Australia and eastern Australia (up to central Queensland).
Rusa Deer (Cervus timorensis)
Native range: Indonesia
Habitat: Preferred habitat is grassy plains bordered by dense brush or woodlands.
Size: Medium-sized. Stags up to 140 kg and 120 cm at shoulder. Hinds up to 75 kg.
Behavour: Gregarious. Stags ‘plough’ vegetation during the rut and drape antlers with plants to establish dominance. Semi-nocturnal. Preferential grazers of grass but also browse.
Breeding: Hinds can produce 3 calves in 2 years. Maximum annual population growth rate 0.7.
Bioclimatic (predicted) distribution: High habitat suitability in some coastal areas in northern Australia, eastern Australia, southern Australia (in the east) and Tasmania.
Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
Native range: Europe
Habitat: Open, glassy glades or forest margins for feeding; also marshes, agricultural lands, conifer plantations. Will retreat into forest with dense understorey.
Size: Relatively small. Stags up to 110 kg and 98 cm at shoulder. Hinds up to 56 kg.
Behavour: Gregarious. Mature bucks live apart from females until the rut. During rut, they herd females, and establish territories and rutting stands. Diurnal. Peak activity at dawn and dusk. Predominantly a grazer.
Breeding: Give birth to 1 young. Maximum annual population growth rate 0.45.
Bioclimatic (predicted) distribution: High habitat suitability across the southern third of Australia.
Hog deer (Axis porcinus)
Native range: Southeast Asia
Habitat: Coastal scrublands and swamps
Size: The smallest deer in Australia. Stags up to 45 kg and 72 cm at shoulder. Hinds up to 25 kg.
Behavour: Mostly solitary but often found in pairs. Large numbers can be observed in favoured foraging areas. Most active at dawn and dusk, occasionally during the day, but more nocturnal in areas subject to hunting. Mostly a grazer, also browses.
Breeding: Mostly 1 calf. Maximum annual population growth rate 0.85.
Bioclimatic (predicted) distribution: High habitat suitability across the top half of Australia.
Sambar (Cervus unicolour)
Native range: Southeast Asia
Habitat: Forests, woodlands.
Size: Largest species in Australia. Stags up to 300 kg and 140 cm at the shoulder. Hinds up to 230 kg.
Behavour: Stags generally solitary. Hinds and offspring may form small groups. Large numbers may congregate in productive foraging areas. Browser and grazer. Mostly nocturnal.
Breeding: Usually a single calf annually. Maximum annual population growth rate 0.55.
Bioclimatic (predicted) distribution: High habitat suitability across the top half of Australia, southeast Australia and Tasmania.
Following is information about the deer species established in each state and the laws and policies that apply to feral deer.
Information from Moriarty (2004); Jesser (2005); Pople et al. (2009); DEEDI (2010)
‘More recently, wild deer populations have increased in density and range, due likely to a combination of natural spread, escapes from deer farms and deliberate releases for hunting. These new populations, in particular, have the potential to adversely affect the environment, primary production and human safety…’ (Pople et al. 2009)
‘The possible impact of sambar in the wet tropics or hog deer in coastal wetlands, and the implications for some native species in those areas, gives cause for concern. The status quo could also be disturbed by the introduction of new genetic material if the effect was to increase the adaptability of deer species in Queensland.’ (Jesser 2005)
Species established: Red, Fallow, Chital, Rusa
Distribution: Red Deer in southeast Queensland, near Rockhampton, around Roma, Injune and Mitchell. Chital in north Queensland, around Charters Towers and mouth of the Burdekin River. Rusa in Torres Stait Islands, Townsville, Rockhampton, Stanthorpe, Charters Towers. (Jesser 2005 notes anecdotal reports that 600 Rusa were released onto the Gulf Plains.) Fallow Deer around Warwick and elsewhere in southern Queensland. Large potential for greatly expanded range for all species.
Abundance: At least 20 populations, totaling about 30,000 (DEEDI 2010) but Moriarty (2004) reported 32 herds in 2002. Red Deer and Chital: number in the 10,000s. Fallow Deer: a few thousand. Rusa Deer: several hundred. Recent population increases attributed to natural spread, escapes and deliberate releases for hunting. ‘Most populations of the four existing species outside the historic ranges are small and localised, suggesting they could be eradicated’ (Pople et al. 2009).
Legal status: Since 2009, deer have been declared pest animals under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002. Class 1 (subject to eradication): Hog, White-tail, Sambar. Class 2 (control by landowners required): Rusa, Chital. Class 3 (control required if next to an environmentally sensitive area): Red, Fallow. (Deer were protected wildlife until 1994.)
Policy: A Feral Deer Management Strategy is under development (public consultation on the draft strategy recently closed). The draft included a goal to ‘eradicate feral deer from defined areas where feasible and where eradication will have a long-term effect.’
Information from Moriarty (2004); NSW Scientific Committee (2004); West and Saunders (2007)
Species established: Rusa, Fallow, Red, Chital, Hog, Sambar
Distribution: Widely but patchily distributed on the Coast and Tablelands; at low densities in western NSW. Presence reported over about 50,000 km2 (6% of the state) in 2005. Occur in many conservation reserves, including Bouddi, Deua, Guy Fawkes River, Royal, Blue Mountains, Kosciuszko, Morton, South East Forests, Wadbilliga and Towarri National Parks; Dharawal, Illawarra Escarpment and Mount Canobolas State Conservation Areas and Dharawal, Karuah, Lake Innes, Macquarie, Sea Acres and Wallaroo Nature Reserves. Bioclimatic modelling suggests all species could increase their ranges. Suitable climates exist over most of the state for Red, Chital and Fallow Deer.
Abundance: 96 herds reported in 2002. During 2004/05, wild deer were reported as occurring mainly at low densities in NSW. Areas reported to have medium to high densities covered 13,000km2.
Legal status: Deer are protected under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002. A hunting license must be obtained from the NSW Game Council (a few exceptions include farmers and government personnel) and hunting restrictions apply (a closed season for some species and spotlighting is not permitted). Hunting is permitted in most state forests.
‘Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deer’ was listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) in 2004.
Policy: No Threat Abatement Plan has been implemented. Deer are included in pest control plans for several national parks and there is a deer management program at Royal NP. Otherwise, deer are managed mostly for hunting and control is conducted mostly for economic or social/safety reasons.
Information from Moriarty (2004); Styles (2009).
‘Despite initial control efforts being made, deer continued to disperse within the ACT, in particular along most of the length of the Murrumbidgee River, and also into mountain areas within Namadgi National Park, where few feasible control efforts were considered to be available.’ (Styles 2009).
Species established: Fallow, Red, Sambar
Distribution: Along the Murrumbidgee River, into mountain areas within Namadgi National Park. Sambar and Red Deer in the south and Fallow Deer in the northeast.
Abundance: 8 herds reported in 2002. Mostly Fallow Deer (suspected of escaping/being released from a collapsed deer-farming venture). Deer sightings increased after the 2003 bushfires.
Legal status: Declared as pest animals under the Pest Plants and Animals Act 2005.
Policy: None known.
Information from Moriarty (2004); Wright et al. (2009); State Government website.
‘In limited instances, permits are issued to landholders for site-specific destruction where deer are having adverse impacts on agricultural, property or conservation values. However, while destruction permits may be issued, little work is currently undertaken to actively manage the abundance of deer or impacts they may have on natural values on public land.’ (Wright et al. 2009)
Species established: Sambar, Hog, Red, Fallow
Distribution: Occur mostly in forests and woodlands in eastern Victoria; scattered populations in the west. Sambar are most widely distributed – throughout central and eastern Victoria. Hog Deer occur in low-lying coastal areas in eastern Victoria. Red Deer are mostly in the Grampians in western Victoria, but recent sightings in other areas suggest farm escapes or releases. Fallow Deer are patchily distributed due to releases since the 1990s.
Abundance: 51 herds reported in 2002. Sambar are most abundant, possibly numbering hundreds of thousands, and increasing. Fallow Deer may also be increasing.
Legal status: ‘Protected wildlife’ under the Victorian Wildlife Act 1975. No person may take or destroy protected wildlife, except where authorised. Classified as ’game’ under the Wildlife Act 1975 so may be taken by licensed hunters under regulations (bag limits and closed seasons apply to some species and spotlighting is not permitted). Deer hunting is permitted in some national parks.
‘Reduction in biodiversity of native vegetation by Sambar (Cervus unicolor)’ is listed as a Potentially Threatening Processes under Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act).
Policy: Most management is directed towards supporting recreational hunting. A draft Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement in response to the threatening process listing has been developed.
Information from Moriarty (2004); Hall (2009); Tasmanian Government Website
‘Tasmania boasts the potential to become one of the greatest fallow deer herds in the world.’ (Hall [Tasmanian Government] 2009)
Species established: Fallow.
Distribution: Found on >30% of mainland Tasmania (2005) in an area roughly bounded by a line from Launceston to Derwent Bridge to Pontville to the east-coast to St. Helens and back to Launceston. In some areas there is recent range expansion.
Abundance: 4 herds reported in 2002. Estimated at 20,000 (Hall 2005) or 30,000 (Tasmanian Government).
Legal status: ‘Partly-protected fauna’ under the Wildlife Regulations 1999. An annual season is proclaimed for male and antlerless deer (about 2500 deer are hunted annually).
Policy: Deer are managed for the benefit of hunters. There is a Quality Deer Management program that ‘involves the production of quality deer, quality habitat, quality hunting, and importantly, quality hunters’ (Hall 2009). One landowner with a conservation covenant on his land was refused a permit to cull deer to prevent environmental damage to his property in spite of a legal agreement (which established the covenant) obliging the relevant Minister to provide support for the control of exotic species that may impact the area's natural values(XXXX XXXX pers. comm.).
Information mostly from Moriarty (2004); Williams (2009), State Government website.
Species established: Fallow, Red, Sambar, Rusa
Distribution: Fallow Deer in pockets in parts of the south east, mid north and Mt Lofty Ranges. Recent reports of small populations of fallow deer establishing in new areas (probably due to liberations by hunters or farm escapes). New herds of fallow deer at Burra, Southern Fleurieu Peninsula, Elliston and Kangaroo Island. Small herds of other species recently reported in the upper south east and around the Bundaleer forest in the mid north.
Abundance: 23 herds reported in 2002. Fallow Deer are the most abundant species; others are in low numbers but increasing.
Legal status: Under the Natural Resources Management Regulations 2005, landholders with wild deer on their land without their consent must control deer in accordance with Natural Resources Management (NRM) Board Regional Plans.
Policy: There is a State Policy on Wild Deer, requiring landowners to control deer. The goal is to eradicate new populations and control established populations to limit damage. There is an eradication program for Kangaroo Island (Masters 2009). Control programs are conducted in national parks and surrounding lands in the South East region, including with annual aerial shooting for the past 3 years.
Information from Moriarty (2004); Woolnough & Kirkpatrick (2009)
‘In the last decade there has been increased concern about wild populations of these three species becoming more widely established in WA because of escapes from deer farms and deliberate releases for hunting (Long 2003). Currently, the agricultural and environmental impacts seem to be less than other populations of wild deer in eastern Australia and New Zealand, but this may be because of their low density and relatively restricted distribution in this state.’ (Woolnough and Kirkpatrick 2009)
Species established: Red, Fallow, Rusa.
Distribution: Generally restricted to the southwest. Anecdotal evidence that recreational hunters have released breeding pairs obtained from farmed herds into bushland. Deer seem to persist and expand where 1080- bearing plants (Gastrolobium spp) occur.
Abundance: 3 herds reported in 2002. Low abundance reported in a 2005 survey of staff from DAFWA and DEC (but this may be a consequence of deer being difficult to detect and quantify). Red Deer are reportedly most common, followed by Fallow Deer. Present in Mount Frankland National Park, Fitzgerald River National Park, the Perth hills, Harvey hills and parts of the Greenough and Northampton Shires.
Legal status: All deer are on the List of Declared Pest Animals, under the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act 1976 (Section 37). Red Deer & Fallow deer: categories A5 (numbers will be reduced/controlled) and A6 (keeping under Department of Agriculture and Food [DAFWA] permit and/or conditions). Other deer: categories A1 (entry prohibited), A2 (subject to eradication in the wild) and A3 (keeping prohibited).
Policy: There are no specificpolicies on wild deer management and no resources allocated. ‘There is an urgent need for information on options for controlling deer at large in WA.’
Information from Moriarty (2004); NT Government website.
Species established: Rusa, Sambar
Distribution: Rusa on Groote Eylandt and other smaller islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria; Coburg Peninsula and in Western Arnhem Land.
Abundance: 1 herd reported in 2002. Regarded as a ‘minor pest’.
Legal status: Rusa and Sambar are declared feral pests under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2006.
Policy: None known.