Common names of deer liberated in New Zealand: Sika (Cervus Nippon) from Manchuria, Fallow (Dama dama) from England, Wapiti (Cervus Canadensis) from North America, Red (Cervus elaphus) from England and Scotland, Rusa (Rusa timorensis) from New Caledonia, Samba (Rusa unicolor) from Sri Lanka, Virginia (Odocoileus virginianus) from North America.
Feral deer are a pest in Taranaki and the Taranaki Regional Council promotes the voluntary control of them to reduce the threat to agriculture and the environment.
Feral deer are any deer living in the wild that are not being farmed. Escaped deer, with a registered eartag or brand, are not classed as feral deer.
Red, sika, sambar, rusa, fallow, wapiti and white-tailed deer species are declared pest animals in Taranaki. In the wild, only fallow deer are present in large numbers in Taranaki but there may be small herds of red deer. There is concern about unconfirmed reports of sika deer in north Taranaki, as they could be the most difficult to eliminate.
Deer were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Deer numbers rapidly increased until the Government introduced deer cullers in the 1930s. Control by cullers continued until the 1960s, when helicopter recovery of wild venison became commercially viable and populations of wild deer were dramatically reduced. With a decrease in commercial deer recovery in recent years, deer numbers are thought to be increasing again in some areas of New Zealand. In Taranaki, feral deer were largely absent until the 1980s when herds became established by animals escaping from deer farms and from illegal liberation.
Feral deer are a serious threat to agriculture and the TB-free status of Taranaki. If Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) became established in feral deer populations they could spread the disease to farm animals, or to other TB carriers such as possums and ferrets which could then transmit the disease to livestock. Once established, TB would be difficult to eradicate from feral deer populations and would be an ongoing threat to wildlife and farm animals. One of the main risks of TB becoming established in the region is from deer being taken from areas where TB is endemic and liberated illegally in Taranaki.
Deer can have major impact on Taranaki’s unique natural ecosystems. The deer will browse seedlings, shrubs and native plants, with a major impact on the structure of the forest.
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