The main goal of the animal control plans, and the 10 year management agreement, has been to achieve a level of deer control required to maintain browse-sensitive indigenous flora species. This goal is set out in the Fiordland National Park Management Plan.
FWF has been doing this by culling about 800-1000 deer from the area, annually, through helicopter based hunting. This culling of deer has been done in a way that aims to achieve the other main goal of enhancing Wapiti trophy hunting opportunities, now and into the future. More specifically, the selective culling programme, and has been designed with the aim of:
- Improving habitat quality
- Limiting migration of red deer into the area
- Improving trophy quality
- Increasing the percentage of Wapiti genetics within the herd
During the mid 2000’s DOC became concerned about increasing numbers of deer over the wider Fiordland region as there was no commercial helicopter deer recovery at that time. DOC established an alpine deer browse monitoring programme. This programme includes sites within the Wapiti Area and is now used for assessing whether the deer control programme is achieving the main conservation goal. Since FWF has established it’s deer control programme DOC has also established a forest seedling monitoring programme in the Wapiti area to assess impacts of deer control in forest zones.
The aim has been for the number of deer removed from the Wapiti Area each year to equal or exceed the number being recruited into the population each year. To be ensure vegetation quality goals are achieved we need to ensure that the base population of deer does not increase but is maintained well below that of the mid 2000’s, when the FWF culling programme began.
We need to know things like, how many deer are shot by recreational hunters each year, the size of the base population and the annual recruitment rate to calculate how many deer need to be removed each year. Until we can find out these actual figures we have to guess based on studies of other deer populations in New Zealand and what we do know.
The culling criteria for what types of animals (by sex, age or amount of red deer characteristics) are shot during the helicopter hunting are varied across the Wapiti Area. Within the “Core”, central area, where there is a higher percentage of Wapiti genetics, all young non-red deer males are left until their trophy potential can be assessed. Females are culled to leave smaller numbers of the better wapiti types in the most productive younger age classes. Obviously all deer showing straight red deer characteristic are shot. In the “Non-core” or fringe areas, again all red deer and most cross-bred animals are shot. All females and young makes showing strong Wapiti characteristics are left. Older males of very poor trophy potential are shot.
Read the Rationale for Current Management – Sept 2015 PDF.