Sand country ecology: Sambar (Cervus unicolor) in sand hill country
The sambar (Cervus unicolor), a large uniform brown-coloured deer from India and Ceylon, was liberated in the sand-hill country at Carnarvon, near the Rangitikei River, in 1895 (Thomson, 1922). Since then it has colonized a coastal strip of about 63 mile in length, extending between the Waitotara River on the north and the Hokio River on the south. The width of the coastal strip now occupied by sambar is variable and reaches a maximum width of about six miles, north of the Rangitikei River.
In India, although they are generally known as a forest-loving animal, they are usually close to water, and bed for the day near a water-course. They are said to prefer thickly-wooded hillsides In the vicinity of cultivation. . . "it is a mistake to think that the centre of some vast forest remote from the past or present habitation of man will contain many sambar. It is quite rare to find more than a few deer in such places" (Brander, 1923). The same author indicates that, although sambar are known to browse, their chief food is especially coarse grasses growing along banks of streams.
In the Wanganui-Foxton sand-hill country, sambar are associated particularly with dense cover of manuka scrub, fern, and lupin, and with swampy areas adjacent to farm country. Their spread has been into similar habitat north and south of Carnarvon and, insofar as is now known, not inland into indigenous forest areas.