Whitetail Deer Research / Dart Valley area

4092fb_e62d980c7ded4e028ff0ff15caa69a8cWhite-tailed deer research in New Zealand

Kaylyn McBrearty

Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are the most widely distributed deer species in the word. Native to the Americas, they are extremely adaptable animals and populations are known to escalate and spread rapidly, particularly when there is a low level of predation, disease, hunting pressure and an abundance of food.

New Zealand has the only two wild white-tailed deer populations in the South Pacific. In 1905 nine white-tailed deer, originating from New Hampshire, USA, were released into the Rees Valley, Wakatipu and nine at Port Pegasus, Stewart Island. Since then, the Stewart Island white-tailed deer population increased in size and range covering much of the Island. However, the white-tailed in the Wakatipu were not noted to have spread into the adjacent Dart valley until the 1970’s. At this time concern was expressed by local hunters and land owners that the number of white-tailed deer was too low to be sustainable.

In collaboration with New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association and local land owners, the New Zealand Forest Service placed a verbal moratorium on the white-tailed deer on all crown lease land, excluding Mt Aspiring National Park, by the non-issuing of hunting permits. Despite more than 20 years of protection from legal hunting on crown lease land, the Wakatipu white-tailed deer population is still considered low. A number of reports on the state of the herd were issued by the New Zealand Forest Service during the 1970’s and 80s, all of which recommended the continual monitoring of the herd. This was never conducted and as such, the current state of the herd is unknown.


The Wakatipu white-tailed deer are being researched as part of a Doctoral Degree through Lincoln University.

The project will attempt to determine the impact of factors which may be limiting the Wakatipu white-tailed deer, such as; hunting, mineral deficiency, genetic homogeneity and pest control operations within their habitat range.

In order to determine the impact of these factors the current status of the herd will be investigated; genetic origin confirmation and change, nutritional health, population abundance, habitat usage, sex ratio and age structure.

The results of this research will be used to make recommendations to the future management of this herd for the purpose of a sustainable recreational hunting resource. In addition, methodology developed from this research will contribute to the investigation of our other valued game animal herds.

Recommendations will be made to the Game Animal Council (2013)


This research is for the fulfilment of a PhD by Kaylyn McBrearty at Lincoln University, Department of Ecology and Life sciences, advised by Landcare Research Ecologists. In collaboration with the Game Animal Council, the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association, local land owners and the Department of Conservation.

Sponsored by Stoney Creek.

How can you help?

Contribute to the future of game animal hunting in NZ

Currently there is no overarching organisation contributing funding to the completion of this project or the continued management of this valued game animal herd. As such, contributions by interested organisations and general public are welcomed. (Emphasis Editor)

Get in touch! A survey on the current knowledge, past hunter experience and future management of these herds is in progress. All information shared remains confidential unless otherwise agreed to.

Contact Kaylyn McBrearty





More from Kaylyn

(July 26th 2016)


White-tailed Deer Research in New Zealand

Get involved!!!

Deer repellent is going to be used in the Dart Valley pest control operation this year by DOC to reduce the by-kill of Whitetail deer. However, there are those who question the effectiveness of the repellent and without evidence of its success have right for concern.

We need to know for certain how effective this mitigation technique actually is:

Only one way to find out ……. Follow the link below !!!

Help make this monitoring happen,

Help save this historically valued small deer herd for future generations.

Donate to monitoring or sponsor your own deer today!!!




Illegal hunting threatens Queentown’s white-tail deer herd

New Zealand’s only mainland herd of white-tail deer is under threat from illegal hunting, a researcher says. The herd, estimated to number under 1000, grazes in the Dart River Valley near Queenstown. Much of the valley is a conservation area, where hunting is banned.

Lincoln University PhD student Kaylyn McBrearty has been studying the deer for the past two years after she became increasingly worried about the herd’s sustainability.

“Basically the numbers are shockingly low,” she said.

“[They] are so small that taking even a couple of does has a big impact.”

New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association Southern Lakes secretary Sharon Salmons said the group knew of people hunting in that area illegally and were working with McBrearty and the Department of Conservation (DOC) to stop it.

McBrearty said the herd could be wiped out if nothing was done.

“It’s about making those correct choices for the herd.

“If everyone shoots a 4-year-old buck and over, we won’t have a problem.”


The Wakatipu Wildlife White-Tail Management Trust, of which McBrearty was chairwoman, had approached DOC about extending the area closed to hunting.

Regulations around hunters would also make a difference, McBrearty said.

“Most countries, you can’t just rock up to the bush and shoot something.

“It’s quite dangerous from a hunting point of view.”

DOC Queenstown partnerships ranger Chris Hankin said white-tail deer could be hunted, but it was illegal to shoot them in a closed area and without the correct permits.

“Much of the Lower Dart conservation area is closed to hunting, specifically for the benefit of the white-tail herd.”

DOC had not received any reports of illegal hunting in the area, he said.

“We would take any reports seriously and investigate them.”

DOC was discussing the feasibility and benefits of extending the area closed to hunting, Hankin said. It would not make a decision on it without consulting the community.

The only other white-tail deer herd in New Zealand is on Stewart Island.

 – Stuff