Fallow Deer Hunting New Zealand

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae
  • Subfamily: Cervinae
  • Genus: Dama
  • Species: D. dama

The fallow deer were first introduced to New Zealand in 1864.

Like the red deer, they came from Europe. They flourish on both the North and South Islands. They are the second most numerous deer in New Zealand, following the red deer.

Fallow Deer Description

At birth they can be as varied in colour as the adults but all will be spotted to a greater or lesser degree. The adult male or buck stands about 90-95 cm at the shoulder and can weigh upward of 70 kg, depending upon the time of the year and condition. Does are slightly smaller than the buck, standing 80-85 cm at the shoulder and weighing about 45 kg.

Slightly larger than a domestic goat, the Welsh name for Fallow is "gafrdanas" which means Danish Goat.

The species is very variable in colour, with four main variants, "common", "menil", "melanistic" and "albinistic". The common form has a brown coat with white mottles that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker coat in the winter. The albinistic is the lightest coloured, almost white; common and menil are darker, and melanistic is very dark, even black (easily confused with the Sika Deer).

Most herds consist of the common form but have menil form and melanistic form animals amongst them (the three groups do not stay separate and interbreed readily).

Fallow Deer Mating and Reproduction

  • Gestation Period: 170 days
  • Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2
  • Weaning: After 6 months
  • Sexual Maturity: Females at 2.5 years, males at 3.5-4 years
  • Life span: 14-22 years

The rut of the fallow deer runs from early April to late May.

They are a very aggressive animal during this period, and bucks, who lose all fear during the rut, may battle until death. Occasionally a fallow buck will even take on a much larger red stag. Their mating sound is similar to a bullfrog croaking, and is generated from deep in the throat.

During rut, bucks mark off and defend a small area, known as a "stand," from which other rutting males are excluded; females and young remain within the male territories and as each doe comes into heat, she is followed until mating is accomplished. These stands consist of scrapes in the ground and thrashed bushes and trees. The area that they will be spread over is dependant upon the local Fallow population density, with those areas of lower densities sustaining larger territories.

The buck urinates into the scrapes and may also urinate upon himself or his antlers. Bucks develop a very strong odour which is easily detectable even by humans. Unlike Sika or Red deer, Fallow do not appear to use the scrapes as wallows. The bucks will also thrash and fray bushes and trees, depositing scent from their sub-orbital scent glands onto the trunks of trees. When on the rutting stand the buck emits a characteristic groaning call which is similar to a deep extended belch. The does congregate around the rutting stand attracted by the activities of the buck and the audible and oflactory stimuli.

The buck then moves around the assembled does testing them for sexual receptiveness by sniffing around the anal area of the does and tasting their urine to ascertain which ones are in oestrus. This sampling of the does is known as "Flehmen" and is indicated by a buck rolling back his lips and raising his head. If the doe is in oestrus the buck may then chase her, sometimes a considerable distance from the rutting stand, before mating takes place.

After the rut, males gradually cease defending their territories and form "bachelor groups," while females and young remain segregated from males and in their own groups.

The gestation period is approximately 71/2 months, with most fawning occurring from late May through June. Generally, only a single fawn is born, although twins are not uncommon. Females reach sexual maturity at 16 months and can bear their first fawns by 2 years of age. Bucks mature sexually at 14 months but rarely compete successfully in rutting until several years later.

Bucks attain physical maturity at 6 years of age. Lifespan is about 11-15 years, with a maximum record of 25 years.

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