Help to monitor what is commonly described as Australia’s worst emerging pest species.
Feral deer numbers are rapidly increasing on the Gold Coast causing significant impacts to the natural environment and the agricultural industry, as well as presenting significant danger to road users.
You can help to monitor feral deer by learning how to identify different species, how to recognise deer damage in the environment, and most importantly by logging your sightings!
Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming education and field work events, and utilise the below resources so that you can start monitoring deer straight away.
There is still time to stop feral deer, if we act now!
Know Your Gold Coast Deer
There are four different species of deer currently residing on the Gold Coast.
Learn the key identifying features of each species so that you can provide valuable data to the program.
Chital Deer (Axis axis)
Size – Can grow to a height of 95cm and a weight of 100kg.
Antlers – Flattened antlers up to 50cm with numerous points.
Appearance – Reddish brown to chestnut brown coat with dark brown/black muzzle white spots. Heart shaped pale rump patch with black outline. Males have a striking white throat patch. Long tail. Have a distinctive high-pitch alarm call when disturbed.
Habitat – Graze on a variety of grasses, fruit and leaves.
Social Behaviour – They can form herds of more than 100. Females separate from the herd during birthing and rearing of their young.
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
Size – The largest species of deer. Males can grow to a height of 120cm and a weight of 220kg.
Antlers – Multi-tined, six to eight tines common, 10-12 less frequent. Round in section. Cast in October or November, reformed by February. Up to 90cm.
Appearance – Coat colour changes seasonally, being reddish in summer and greyish brown in winter. Regardless of time of year, a lighter yellow-coloured rump patch is prominent. Calves have white spots along flanks when first-born, which tend to fade within a few months. Tail is small and indistinct. Ears long and pointed.
Habitat – Open forest and woodland with grassy understory. Woodland edge adjacent to grassland. They may be seen in open areas but usually only when it’s close to thick, timbered vegetation.
Social Behaviour – Outside breeding season (mainly April) stags remain segregated from hinds and their offspring, with hinds forming matriarchal herds. Males are often territorial during mating season and roar to attract receptive females.
Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
Size – Males can grow to a height of 95cm and a weight of 100kg.
Antlers – Multi-tined, upper half palmate or flattened. Cast in October, reformed by February. Up to 50cm.
Appearance – Coat colour highly variable, from black, to reddish brown with white spots, to lighter brown (menil) with white spots to white. Coat colour variants can be universally present in a single herd. Black and white markings on tail and buttocks prominent. While feeding tail is flicked continuously. ‘Adam’s Apple’ strikingly prominent in throat of adult stags. In rut, the buck makes an unmistakable croak, similar to a grunting pig. The calls vary from high pitched bleating to deep grunts.
Habitat – Open forest and woodland with grassy understory. Woodland edge adjacent to grassland.
Social Behaviour – Outside breeding season (mid-April through to August) herds segregate into groups containing females and their offspring and groups containing bachelor males.
Rusa Deer (Rusa Timorensis)
Size – Males can grow to a height of 110cm and a weight of 135kg.
Antlers – Three lyre-like tines. Rear tine on forked pair is always longer than front tine. Round in section. Up to 96cm.
Appearance – Coat colour varies seasonally. Summer coat colour reddish-brown, darkening on hindquarters and lightening on chest with white throat spots. Winter coat is thicker and upper parts are greyer. Stags often develop thick mane. Newborn calves have a rich red coat colour.
Habitat – Cleared grassy areas but also heathlands, woodlands, forests and rainforest.
Social Behaviour – Outside breeding season stags remain segregated from hinds and their offspring. Often seen in small groups.
Deer cause significant damage to the natural environment and to the agricultural industry.
Some Examples of Environmental Damage
Deer scratch their antlers on trees and saplings causing severe damage or death of both young and mature trees. The death of mature trees and the elimination of potential replacement trees results in long-term habitat degradation. The destruction of saplings is particularly problematic.
Male deer create wallows as part of their mating behaviour. Aside form the obvious erosion caused, the muddy pools can harbour disease which is then spread by stags who have covered themselves in the muddy water. The trapping of water also impacts surrounding plant species.
Deer are described as ecosystem engineers due to their ability to entirely alter landscapes through their extensive browsing. Deer can alter the area’s veg type and change watercourses with this behaviour which can have disastrous implications for native species.
Some Examples of Agricultural Damage
In addition to damaging fencing, deer create more need for fencing by browsing and removing vegetation barriers that were previously sufficient in containing livestock. Increased fencing requirements and fencing repairs impact impact farmers’ finances significantly.
Farmers must regularly treat their animals to protect them from parasites. When feral deer are entering the property they bring parasites in with them and reinfect livestock. This results in increased costs for farmers, increased chemical use and also results in injuries to livestock.
Farmers have to plan their grazing rotation so the grass can rest and replenish its nutrients. Feral deer will overgraze fields during this resting period resulting in degradation of the grass and its nutritional content. This can render entire paddocks unusable
How can you get involved?
Use Feral Scan to report sightings of deer and deer damage.
When councils apply for federal funding for invasive species control, they need to provide evidence that there is a problem in their area.
There is lots of community discussion of deer on the Gold Coast but very few sightings are reported, making it very difficult to justify funding being allocated to the area.
You can help to change this by reporting sightings of feral deer and deer damage using Feral Scan.
The Gold Coast is vast and we need help from the community to monitor more areas for deer activity. You can help to look for deer by going for regular walks on your properties or in your local area.
Take the opportunity to get out into nature for a walk with your friends and family and look for evidence of deer as you go.
If you have a smart phone you can track your walk using AllTrails and then forward the files to us. This lets us see which parts of the Gold Coast are being monitored for deer activity and helps us accrue data.
Review our Footage
Watergum has motion sensor cameras scattered around the Gold Coast.
Although they are looking for dear, they are triggered by any motion, meaning that there are often thousands of images that need to be checked.
Wildlife cameras offer unique insight into the nature and you will likely spot many different species in addition to deer.
This can be a fun activity that you can do from home that will help us better support native species. More details coming soon
- Fure on threatened ecological communities – Australia
- Diets of native and introduced herbivores – Australia
- Impacts of herbivores on forest understory’s – Australia
- Feral deer in the suburbs: An emerging issue – Australia
- Effects of Rusa deer on native plants – Royal NP, NSW
- Sambar antler rubbing of yellowwood – Gippsland, VIC
- Evaluating the effects of feral deer management – Alpine NP, VIC
- Eradication of Fallow deer – Kangaroo Island, SA
- Deer habitat modelling – Tasmania
- Landscape-level vegetation recovery from Red deer – New Zealand
- Ecosystem and competition impacts of feral deer – Global