Land owners seek right to control sambar deer

4 Oct 2005

Forest owners and farmers on the North Island’s west coast between Waverley and Otaki want the right to control sambar deer on their land.

The Forest Owners Association, Federated Farmers and the Farm Forestry Association say the deer cause major irreversible damage to young trees and farm crops, and should not have legal protection on private property.

They are encouraging their members in the region to respond to a Department of Conservation sambar policy review paper before submissions close on Friday.

Sambar were introduced to the Manawatu/Rangitikei area in 1875 and have since spread through the coastal sand dunes and along the major riverbeds as far inland as the Taihape district.

Unlike other deer species, they are protected by laws which dictate when and where they can be hunted. Licensed hunters may shoot no more than one sambar a year.

Forest Owners chief executive David Rhodes says forest owners need to be able to manage deer on their land in a way that recognises or protects their interests.

“Sambar deer tear large strips of bark from tree stems, leaving them severely scarred and often ring-barked. The worst damage is in newly pruned blocks where deer can easily reach the bare stem of the tree," he says.

“This results in reduced tree growth and a devaluation of what would normally be the most valuable part of the stem. The affected section is typically discarded as waste. 

“Losses in affected forests have been calculated at $5000-$7000 per /ha, or 20-30% of the value of the trees at harvest. Total damage to standing forests exceeds $20 million." Ruth Rainey, president of Manawatu/Rangitikei Federated Farmers, says there is little public conservation land in the area, so sambar are mainly found on private land.

“They are secretive animals which often hide in plantation forests during the day, emerging at night to damage crops on neighbouring farms.

“Sambar are an important recreational hunting resource, but they are not endangered in New Zealand, nor in their country of origin, India. So there is no justification for the Department of Conservation preventing farmers from managing them.???

Mrs Rainey says some sheep and dairy farmers tolerate the deer, but there’s an overwhelming consensus that they should have the right to manage or control the deer on their own land.

“There is concern about the possibility that sambar may spread Tb. Also some farmers are uncomfortable about having characters with high powered rifles wandering around their boundaries. Poaching is an issue in some districts.???

Farm Forestry Association spokesman Denis Hocking says sambar have the ability to destroy newly planted tree plantations overnight. He says existing regulations should be repealed, so farmers and foresters can use all appropriate methods to protect their crops.

He also points out that trees play a very important role in stabilising the sand dunes which are typical of the area.

“If damage by sambar is allowed to continue, forestry will become a less attractive option for land owners, raising the potential for loss of tree cover and increased wind erosion of this fragile dune country."  

Because some farmers accept the presence of their deer on their properties the viability of the herd will not be threatened if the hunting regulations are repealed, he says. 

“There is also the potential for those who want to retain the hunting resource to actively manage it on private land. In this way those who carry the costs will get the benefits. That’s not the case at present."

The official submission form for the Department of Conservation’s review of Sambar Deer Management in the Horowhenua, Manawatu, Rangitikei and Wanganui Area, can be downloaded from www.doc.govt.nz/Conservation/002~Animal-Pests/Sambar-Deer

The deadline for submissions is Friday 7 October.

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For more information, contact:

NZFOA: David Rhodes, Tel 04 473 4769.
NZFFA: Denis Hocking, Tel 06 322 1254
Federated Farmers: Ruth Rainey, Tel 06 382 5507, or Policy Analyst Andrew Mitchell, Tel 06 353 5104