Under the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014 feral deer are classified as Category 3 pest animals. Feral deer are any deer not enclosed in a deer-proof fence.
Four species are found on the Gold Coast.
Chital deer (Axis axis) are native to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. They have the following characteristics:
- relatively small – stags stand about 86 centimetres at shoulder and weigh up to 90 kilograms, hinds smaller and weigh about 45 kilograms
- coats vary from rusty red to dark brown, with permanent white spots in broken lines along body and dark dorsal stripe along spine
- a white throat is a distinguishing feature
- a longer tail than those on most other deer
- stags carry 3-tined antlers on long, upright beam, usually 55 to 70 centimetres long, but up to 90 centimetres.
Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) are often found in groups. They have the following characteristics:
- large ears, light tufts of hair above the eyebrows and antlers that seem too large for their size
- medium-sized – stags may stand 110 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh around 120 kilograms
- coats vary from greyish to yellowish or reddish brown, with darker brown on the hindquarters and thighs – new calves have a rich red coat
- body hair is coarse and more sparse than other deer, although stags develop a mane during winter.
Red deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the larger species. They have the following characteristics:
- stand 120 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh up to 220 kilograms
- glossy reddish brown to brown coat in summer, which is brown to grey in winter and longer, with stags developing a mane
- show a straw-collared patch on the rump when mature
- stag antlers have 6 or more points on each side.
Fallow deer (Dama dama) is a small species – bucks may be just 90 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh around 90 kilograms. They have the following characteristics:
- common coat colour is tan or fawn with white spotting on the flanks
- tail is long, black on top and white beneath, and surrounded by a white rump patch outlined with a characteristic black horseshoe
- coat is longer in winter and greyer with indistinct spots.
Problems caused by deer
There are a wide range of environmental, social and economic impacts caused by deer, including:
- damage to native vegetation
- competition with native wildlife for resources and habitat degradation
- reduction in water quality as grazing and trampling causes erosion and increases sedimentation.
- damage to residential gardens and fences through grazing
- possible serious traffic hazards and motor vehicle accidents
- illegal hunting
- diseases and parasites that can pass on to humans, domestic animals and wildlife
- aggressive stags during breeding season – March to August for fallow and red deer; rus, while not defined, most often between June and October
- impact on agriculture with crops destroy and pasture for domestic stock reduced
- expensive management, which depends on the ability to relocate the deer.
Trapping deer is expensive and time-consuming. Trapping may provide an effective long-term solution, but only if suitable locations are identified.
Exclusion fencing has been successful for small acreage properties in the western suburbs of Brisbane. It is not commonly used on public land because it restricts public access, hinders the movement of native wildlife, is expensive and requires a high level of maintenance.
Chemical repellents may provide short-term protection of individual plants, but they are not suitable over large areas. Deer adapt to repellents, which makes them ineffective in the long-term. The University of Queensland is researching a chemical repellent comprising compounds from tiger faeces. Spread in granular form, the odour is less offensive than cat faeces. The target pest animals still recognise the smell of the predator and avoid the area.
Frightening devices, such as gas-fuelled explosives (gas cannons) and other noise-emitting tools, may provide short-term solutions. These disperse the animals from unwanted areas, although deer adapt to frightening devices, so they are ineffective in the long term.
Guard dogs and domestic dogs may deter wild deer from browsing in gardens.
What are we doing?
We are collecting data about wild deer in the region and mapping populations for future management programs. Control methods vary depending on the size of wild deer populations and environmental conditions in each situation.
To report sightings of feral deer, click on the following button and scroll down to 'Pest animals' to complete our online form.
Report a problem – Animals