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Deer & Goat

Deer & Goat / Reducing the impacts of deer and goat browsing in the Raukūmara

Te Raukūmara was one of the last tracts of native bush to be colonised by red deer. Released in the early 1900s at Lake Waikaremoana, they were spotted (to the great surprise of locals who had never seen an animal like it) in te Raukūmara in the 1950s, and thrived through to the 1980s as result of the abundance of food.

 

Numbers were moderated from the 1980s through the live capture and venison recovery commercial operations that continued through until the mid-2000s. Since commercial operations have finished, backcountry deer numbers have grown rapidly again. No deer control operations have ever been implemented in te Raukūmara.


No-one is sure when goats first arrived, but by the 1970s they were very well-established right across the ngahere. Deer are present right across the Raukūmara, while goats are confined to specific, but significant areas. In both cases, deer and goats are causing major problems as they feed on the new generation of rākau, shrubs and smaller plants. 

For the forest, this situation reprents a 'death by a thousand cuts' (or a thousand bites, to be more accurate). As trees mature and die, the generation coming through is thinned and in some places almost completely grazed out. Diversity is reduced and the new generation of trees is lost. Over decades, the forest becomes a shadow of its former self

Deer and goats are well known for browsing on palatable plant species within the understory of the forest. Critical to the survival and restoration of the Raukūmara, this seedling and shrub layer nurtures and protects plants, fungi, manu and animal life.

The understory also contributes to soil stability, as the first place the forest starts to repair after tree falls, erosion, slips and flood events.

Without a healthy understory, forest regeneration is impossible. In steep terrain such as te Raukūmara, having deer and goats constantly browsing and clearing regrowth after slips has meant scars from major events such as Cyclone Bola, have never been able to heal. 


Our hunters, bushmen and women who have spent their lives in the hills of te Raukūmara have unique insight into the changes and impacts from deer and goat browsing. They speak of a landscape that has been transformed by the impacts of understory browsing. A place that has gone from one where deer and goats were almost never seen; to one that is now heavily populated with these animals. 


These animals are now themselves suffering from the adverse impacts of their own successful colonisation of te Raukūmara. Years of browsing the understory has led to a lack of available food sources to sustain existing populations. Hunters report a marked reduction in deer size and health in the last decade. 
 

To achieve the objectives of the Raukūmara Pae Maunga project, managing the current deer and goat numbers need to be a key focus, reducing numbers to extremely low level to allow the regeneration of the understory.

Our goal is to implement and understake a high intensity deer and goat control programme with the aim of reducing popoulations to low levels within four years. A mixture of aerial techniques (such as conventional and thermal) and ground-based hunting will be employed across 70 per cent of the Raukūmara Conservation Park. 

Operational Objectives:

 

  • Deer and goat population is reduced to a level that allows understorey recovery.

  • Increased understorey diversity and abundance.

  • Incresed habitat and food sources for native birds, reptiles and insects.

  • Local people living in the area are employed, trained and leading in all aspects of ungulate control and management.

  • Training pathways are effective in supporting local people into ungulate management careers and leadership roles.

  • Mātauranga Māori is integrated into all ungulate management mahi.

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He mihi tēnei ki ngā uri o Te Whānau ā Apanui me Ngati Porou. An awesome weekend shared with those who supported the Venison Koha Programme.

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