New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1987) 10: 11- 21

Changes in the Density and Distribution of Red Deer and Wapiti in Northern Fiordland

Research Article
G. Nugent 1
J. P. Parkes 1
K. G. Tustin 2
  1. Forestry Research Centre, FRI, P.O. Box 31-011, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. P.O. Box 134, Wanaka, New Zealand

Deer density indices were estimated in 1969, 1975, and 1984 in the core of the Wapiti Area of Fiordland National Park. Between 1969 and 1984, density above timberline was reduced to near zero by commercial airborne hunting, with smaller decreases in the forest. Overall density declined by 81%. An estimated 2007± 385 deer were present in the 850 km2 survey area in 1984, with an average density in the forest of 3.47±0.66/km2. The highest densities remained in the most completely forested sub-area (Catseye). Deer distribution within the forests became more clumped as densities decreased and, in 1984, was determined by slope, forest type, and terrain. The proportion of deer considered to be wapiti decreased from 100% in the 1920s to 17.7% in 1982-83. The decline is thought to be due to hybridisation and competition with the sympatric red deer, and not the result of differential harvesting. Most remaining wapiti are concentrated between George and Bligh Sounds and eastwards, including the George, Edith, Wapiti, and Glaisnock catchments.