Feral Deer Control Kit for Victoria

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Deer Species in Victoria and their identification

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Victoria has one of the largest populations of deer in Australia (ISC 2023) which include seven species. Three species (Rusa Deer *Cervus timorensis, Chital Deer *Axis axis, Sika Deer *Cervus nippon) are thought to only occur on farms/game reserves (DELWP 2020, Forsyth et al. 2015). Hog Deer *Axis porcinus are located in coastal environments between Tarwin Lower and Point Hicks in southeast Victoria (DELWP 2020). Sambar Deer *Cervus unicolor, Red Deer *Cervus elaphus and Fallow Deer *Dama dama all occur in parts of Victoria. Figure 1 shows the distribution of Red, Fallow, Hog and Sambar Deer in Victoria. 

Distribution of Red, Fallow, Hog and Sambar Deer in Victoria
Figure 1: Distribution of Red, Fallow, Hog and Sambar Deer in Victoria (Source: DELWP 2020)

A brief description of Sambar, Red, Fallow Deer and Hog Deer is provided below (Source: FS 2023 and PD 2023):

Sambar Deer *Cervus unicolor

A brief description of Sambar, Red, Fallow Deer and Hog Deer is provided below (Source: FS 2023 and PD 2023):

Sambar Deer are native to the Indian Subcontinent and South-east Asia. They occur in South Australia and New South Wales and are the most widespread species in Victoria, inhabiting most of eastern and parts of central and southwest Victoria (Forsyth et al. 2015, DELWP 2020). Recent reports found that there are now Sambar deer in and around the Grampians (FE 2022). They are the largest feral deer species in Australia. Male deer (stags or bucks) grow to 160 cm and weigh up to 300 kg. Stags have antlers that grow to 75 cm. The females (hinds or does) grow to 115 cm and weigh up to 230 kg.

They have a coarse coat that is a uniform in colour with individual animals ranging from red-brown to almost black. They have a lighter coloured under the chin, inner legs and under the tail. Ears are rounded, similar to a bat or mouse. They have a thicker coat around the neck like a mane.

When alarmed, they raise their tail and have a distinctive honking/barking call. They are relatively solitary, breed throughout the year, are semi-nocturnal and good swimmers. They graze/browse whatever is available including grasses, shrubs and trees.

Sambar Deer (Image source: Abzeco Pty Ltd)
Sambar Deer (Image source: Abzeco Pty Ltd)

Red Deer *Cervus elaphus

Red Deer are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. They occur in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and there are scattered populations throughout Victoria apart from the northwest. The largest population occurs in the Grampians National Park (FE 2022). They have greatly increased their distribution since the 1980s (Forsyth et al. 2015, DELWP 2020). They are one of the largest deer species in Australia. The stags grow up to 120 cm high and weigh 135-220 kg and have antlers that grow to 90 cm. The hinds grow up to 90 cm high and weigh up to 95 kg. Nose to tail stags are around 1.9 m long and hinds 1.8 m long.

They are a reddish colour during summer and grey-brown in Winter and have a pale rump area. They have long pointed ears. Stags make a distinctive roaring call. The have the largest footprint of the three deer species in the north-east with two pointed toes and round heel. They are very good swimmers. Droppings are roundish often pointed at one end and found in clumps or separately in large numbers (100s) spread over a large area (50 x 60 m) and can be confused with pig, sheep and other deer droppings.

They live in separate male and female herds and breed in April with calves born eight to nine months later. The calves have obvious white spots and a dark stripe down their back for the first three months (PD 2023). They graze/browse grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. 

Red Deer (Image credit: Justin Cally, Arthur Rylah Institute)
Red Deer (Image credit: Justin Cally, Arthur Rylah Institute)

Fallow Deer *Dama dama

Fallow Deer are native to Turkey. They are the most widespread deer in Australia with populations in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia and scattered across Victoria (Forsyth et al. 2015, DELWP 2020) reportedly in low numbers (FE 2022). They are smaller than Sambar and Red Deer. The stags grow to 95 cm high and weigh 60-100 kg. The antlers are flattened and wide. They have an obvious brush like penile sheath. The hinds grow to 80 cm high and weigh 40-50 kg.

They are fawn in colour with white spots or can be dark brown. The have a long black tail that is white underneath and flicks constantly when feeding and a white rump patch.

They raise their tails when alarmed. They make high pitched bleating and deep grunting calls. They can live in herds but can also be solitary. They breed in autumn with an eight month gestation period (birthing in December). They graze/browse grasses, herbs and shrubs close to vegetation cover.

Fallow Deer (Image credit: Brendan Attard, Brendan Attard Photography)
Fallow Deer (Image credit: Brendan Attard, Brendan Attard Photography)

Hog Deer *Axis porcinus

Hog deer (Image 24) are native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They are the smallest of the feral deer species in Australia, with males up to 70 cm and females 60 cm in height. Mature males weigh approximately 55 kg and mature females weigh approximately 30 kg. Their coat colour is generally uniform yellow-brown to red-brown. Seasonal coat variations include cream spotting in summer and a dark brown coat in winter. The tail is usually raised into an upright position when the deer is alerted, showing the white tip and underside of the tail. Hog deer scats are small cylindrical pellets sometimes with a small point at one end. The size of their print/track is notably small.

Hog Deer are only found in Victoria and New South Wales. In Victoria they occur along the Gippsland Coast including in Wilson’s Promontory National park.

Hog Deer cause browsing damage to coastal vegetation and sensitive areas and may carry and spread livestock diseases that may reduce farm productivity and increase management costs. However the hunting of feral hog deer is highly regulated as a valued game species. Seasons and bag limits apply. More information can be found at: Hog Deer Regulations

Hog Deer (Image: Deer Scan)
Hog Deer (Image: Deer Scan)

Further detailed descriptions can be found in various resources in the Information resources section and the Deer Scan (FS 2023) website provides a good deer identification guide which includes images of the different species of male and female deer, habitat descriptions, images of scats and hoof prints for each species of deer.