Feral deer

Deer not kept in a deer proof enclosure are classed as feral. Feral deer are listed in schedule 2 of the Biosecurity Act 2014 (Biosecurity Act) as restricted matter, categories 3, 4 and 6. This means that they must not be distributed, given away, sold, traded, released into the environment, moved or fed.

The different types of deer that are common around Brisbane include:

Report feral deer

To report feral deer, you can :

Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis)

Rusa deer are a tropical or subtropical species. They are semi-nocturnal, their preferred habitat being grassy plains bordered by dense brush or woodlands to which they can retire during daylight hours. They are:

  • medium-sized, where stags may stand 110 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh around 120 kilograms
  • have large ears, light tufts of hair above the eyebrows and large antlers that appear to be too large for their body size
  • have coats that vary from greyish to yellowish or reddish brown, with darker brown on the hindquarters and thighs
  • body hair is coarse and more sparse than other deer
  • stags develop a mane during winter
  • are generally found in small groups
  • have no definite breeding seasons - hinds may produce three calves in two years, generally born March-April - this species has the potential for rapid population growth
  • stags amass vegetation on their antlers, which they use to establish dominance over other males and to attract females.

View more information about Rusa deer

Red deer (Cervus elaphus)

Brisbane has a small isolated population of red deer, which are confined to a small area in the eastern suburbs. The rut (mating season) is from March to April where males can become aggressive. For most of the year the sexes remain apart. Males and females come together only during the rut. Stags compete and challenge other males and contest to collect as many females as they can into ‘harems’.

Red deer:

  • were originally released by the Queensland Acclimatisation Society with the consent of the Queensland Government in the Brisbane Valley in 1873 and 1874
  • are one of the larger deer species, where stags may stand 120 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh up to 220 kilograms
  • has a glossy summer coat is reddish brown to brown, and the winter coat is longer and brown to grey
  • mature red deer show a straw-coloured patch on the rump
  • stags develop a mane during winter
  • stags carry multi-tined antlers, with six or more points on each side.

View more information about Red deer

Fallow deer (Dama dama)

Fallow deer were introduced into Queensland between 1870 and 1872 and are the most widespread and abundant of the deer species in Australia. For most of the year, males and females occur in separate single-sex groups. During the rut (breeding season) they come together in small herds. Males can be very aggressive during the rut.

Fallow deer are a smaller species of deer where:

  • bucks may stand 90 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh around 90 kilograms
  • they have common coat colour of tan or fawn with white spotting on the flanks
  • they have tails are long, black on top and white beneath and they have a white rump patch outlined with a black horse-shoe
  • they have a longer winter coat with more grey and indistinct spots
  • they are the only species in Brisbane with palmate antlers (a shape similar to that of a hand with fingers extended).

View more information about Fallow deer

Problems caused by deer

Feral deer cause problems such as:

  • damaging native vegetation through browsing and trampling and ringbarking
  • competing with native wildlife for resources and habitat
  • reducing water quality to creeks, wetlands and river systems through over grazing and trampling
  • damaging residential gardens and fences
  • creating a traffic hazard on roads
  • attracting illegal hunting
  • transmitting diseases and parasites to humans, domestic animals and wildlife
  • aggressive behaviour (from stags) towards domestic animals, including horses, during breeding season.

Prevention and control

There are proactive steps you can do to help manage the negative impacts of feral deer, as well as reduce your property’s attractiveness and accessibility to feral deer.

Food sources

It is illegal to feed feral deer. Removing food sources such as fallen fruit from trees around your property may assist in the management of deer.

Weed management

Deer can use thickets of lantana as habitat and refuge on larger properties. Lantana is a restricted invasive plant, which can smother native vegetation, form impenetrable stands and is poisonous to livestock. Deer can also feed on weeds and increase their rate of spread, such as Cocos Palm seeds.

Weed management not only helps to reduce feral deer on your property, but also forms part of your general biosecurity obligation to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with both invasive plants and animals under your control.

Further information on identifying and controlling invasive plants can be found on Council’s online weed identification tool.

Deer management

Council undertakes an integrated approach to feral deer management to protect Brisbane’s natural environment in accordance with the actions and objectives listed in the Biosecurity Plan for the Brisbane Local Government Area. This includes monitoring, education, trapping, shooting and providing assistance to landholders to meet their general biosecurity obligation under the Biosecurity Act.

If you would like assistance managing feral deer, or to register your property as a management location, you can use Council’s online Report it: Feral animal sightings form or phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Exclusion fencing

Exclusion fencing may be successful in keeping feral deer out of house yards or smaller properties. However, on large properties, fencing is expensive to build, restricts the movement of native wildlife, and to be effective, requires continual maintenance and ongoing feral deer management in the area.

Road safety

Deer can stray onto roads, becoming a traffic hazard and may cause vehicle accidents. This is most prevalent during the animals’ mating season from March to April. When driving, slow down and exercise caution when you see deer or deer warning signs.

More information

To learn more about feral deer, phone Council on 07 3403 8888, or visit the Queensland Government website or Pestsmart website.

Last updated: 29 October 2020