Fiordland ecology: Herd composition and effective reproduction of wapiti (Cervus canadensis) of eastern Fiordland
- Wildlife Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington
Wapiti were released at George Sound in 1905 (Donne 1924) and are now common from Bligh Sound and Clinton River in the north to Charles Sound and Doon River in the south. They were the main object of study of the New Zealand-American Fiordland Expedition of 1949 (Poole 1951) but neither herd composition nor reproduction were reported on. In the course of a browsing animal survey of Eastern Fiordland in 1954 some data on these aspects were collected that prompted follow-up visits in 1955 and 1956. Each visit lasted about three weeks in late March and early April. The salient features of the first two years' data were reported to the National Parks Authority in 1955.
Most of the wapiti classified were in the Lugar, Mid and Loch Burn Valleys, but some were on ridges immediately adjacent and undoubtedly lived part of the time in other catchments such as Wapiti River or Henderson Burn. Although wapiti have been present in the Lugar Burn since at least 1937, they have only recently penetrated into the Mid and Loch Burns. In 1945 no wapiti were seen in the Mid Burn but in 1947 two were seen on the ridge above the head basin (K. Sutherland pers. comm.). By 1954 their occupation of the Mid Burn was fairly complete and their entry into the Loch Burn was progressing, but distribution was still decidedly patchy.