Knowledgebase > Wild Deer

Wild Deer

Last updated 12 January 2019

Six species of deer have become established in Australia:

  • Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
  • Red Deer (Cervus elaphys)
  • Rusa Deer (Rusa timorensis)
  • Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
  • Chital (Axis axis)
  • Hog Deer (Axis porcinus)

Deer were first released into the Australian wilderness by Acclimatisation Societies during the 19th Century, so they could be hunted. Large numbers of deer were also released or escaped following the rise and collapse of commercial deer farms from the 1970s to the 1990s. Their establishment is further attributed to hunters deliberately and illegally releasing or translocating them into new areas.



Wild deer allegedly destroy native plants and agricultural crops through their natural browsing and grazing, antler rubbing, trampling, trail creation and wallowing behaviours. Though deer have been described as ‘ecosystem engineers’ in other parts of the world because of their ability to modify ecosystem function at the landscape scale, there is little clear evidence of their impact in Australia. Most literature on the subject is observational, and very few studies have experimentally partitioned the impacts of deer from those of sympatric native and non-native herbivores[1].



Since their introduction into Australia, deer have been valued as a recreational hunting ‘resource’ and some jurisdictions provide wild deer certain legal protections, so their populations may be managed for this purpose. More specifically, deer in Victoria[2], NSW[3] and Tasmania[4] are considered ‘game’ animals. This means hunters must hold a game hunting license to shoot them on both public and private land and various restrictions may be imposed, such as bag limits, hunting seasons etc. The governments in these State’s consider deer hunting to be of greater economic value than the potential threat they impose on farms and the natural environment. For example, in Victoria in 2013, there were about 27,000 licensed deer hunters who contributed approximately $57 million to the Victorian economy[5].


[1] Davis N, Bennett A, Forsyth D, Bowman D, Lefroy E, Wood S, Woolnough A, West P, Hampton J & Johnson C. 2016. A systematic review of the impacts and management of introduced deer (family Cervidae) in Australia. Wildlife Research, 43: 515-532.

[2] Game Management Authority, Deer:

[3] Managing wild deer in NSW:

[4] DPIPWE Game Hunting Requirements, Licence Costs & Bag Limits:

[5] Game Management Authority, Deer:

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