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Farm deer escapes threaten native forests

Farm deer escapes threaten native forests

Nearly half of new feral deer populations arise from farm escapes according to a 2004 study, contradicting claims made by National Party MP David Carter yesterday.

“If deer fencing is as good as David Carter claims, why do so many deer escape from farms?” Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell asked today.

When commenting on the Department of Conservation’s proposed deer regulations, David Carter said that a National Government will re-focus the department back to its core task of protecting New Zealand’s unique flora, fauna and endangered species.

“Preventing introduced animals such as deer from destroying native forests is crucial to protecting both the forests and the endangered species that rely on them,” Mr Hackwell said.

“This is obviously one of DOC’s core responsibilities. Forest and Bird will now be looking to see robust fencing standards for deer to reduce the current unacceptable level of farm deer escapes,” he said.

“Forest and Bird hopes that National will reconsider its stance on deer fencing regulations in light of the evidence,” he said.



A study of 109 new location records for deer in 2004 reveal that, where the means of spread is known, 48% of new population records were due to farm escapes, 44% were due to illegal releases and the remainder spread naturally (Fraser and Ferris 2004 Landcare Research). This indicates that escapes from farms are almost certainly the single biggest cause of unwanted new deer populations.

The second largest cause of new deer populations is illegal releases. Forest and Bird appreciates the commitment of the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association to combating this problem.

While possums impact on forests by destroying tree canopies, deer harm forests by preventing regeneration. Research in Pureora Conservation Park in the late 1990s revealed that few seedlings of plant species preferred by deer, such as broadleaf, ever reached more than 5 cm in height and that forest recovery would require the control of deer to very low numbers. Monitoring of forests in the Kaweka Ranges has revealed areas where higher altitude forests have been reduced to grassland and unpalatable shrublands by deer.

Key quotes from David Carter’s media release dated 26 July 2005

“A National Government will re-focus DOC back to its core task of protecting New Zealand’s unique flora, fauna and endangered species.”

“Why would any farmer deliberately farm deer with unsatisfactory boundary fencing that allows deer to escape?”

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