Deer reproductive rates don’t get a lot of scientific study in Australia, but research financially supported by the Australian Deer Association, SSAA and Victorian Hound Hunters has shone a rare academic light on the issue.
The study was published in late 2020 by authors from the University of Queensland and Parks Victoria, and based its results on samples from 144 Sambar deer shot by hunters, professional cullers and commercial harvesters in northeastern Victoria.
The ADA states, “The hunting groups supported it because we have a huge stake in the evidence based management of wild deer in the Australian environment.”
Some of the insights make for interesting reading – notably that despite the significant numbers of deer being shot (90,000 in 2016 alone), their population continues to grow and appears to be making inroads in the state’s northern areas, too.
Sambar are present in more than 70,000sq km of Victoria; they are also in the neighbouring states of NSW and South Australia.
The study reported that most hinds calved between April and August each year, typically aged 1.8 years for their first calf and 12.75 years for their last.
Significantly, the study noted the Victorian sambar population was increasing at approximately 15% per year, despite the best efforts of hunters, pest controllers and commercial harvesters.
Victoria’s Game Management Authority notes that sambar deer are capable of breeding at any time of the year and the open season for stalking with no bag limits that exists on the animals does not appear to have any negative impacts on the population.
GMA noted that “anecdotal evidence suggests that the sambar deer population continues to extend its range, density appears to be increasing and harvest levels remain high” a statement that was subsequently backed up by the academic research results in 2020.
While not great from an environmental perspective, the good news for hunters is that it’s been academically established there’s more than enough sambar deer for everyone, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon.