Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
Fallow deer are the small, spotted deer often seen in large groups on deer farms as you travel along country roads. In that semi-domesticated situation, they bear little resemblance to free-roaming fallow deer which have the alertness and bearing of all the natural prey species that have learned how to survive and prosper in the wild by constant awareness of their surroundings.
Mature fallow bucks stand about 90cm at the shoulder and weigh approximately 90kg. Does are much smaller and lighter, standing about 76cm and weighing only about 40kg. Colour varies considerably in fallow deer and ranges from the common or ‘red’ fallow deer, through the black or melanistic fallow, to animals which are creamy white.
A mature fallow buck’s antlers are quite different in shape and style to the antlers of any other deer species in this country. Brow and trez tines emerge from the beam as in some other species and, occasionally a bez tine is also produced. Above the trez tine, the beam flattens or ‘palmates’ into a broad palm-like area. The points on the rear edge of the palm are termed ‘spellers’, while the lowest of these is called the guard tine
Fallow deer originated in parts of Europe, Asia Minor, Spain and north-west Africa and have been established in the wild in Australia since their introduction and release sometime around 1830. They are now the most widespread of the six species which successfully adapted to the Australian environment with wild populations in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Fallow deer do well in fringe country where there is a mixture of developed and semi-developed farmland with open forest or scrub nearby. Wherever they occur in Australia, their habitat consists of these basic requirements.
Fallow are one of the most abundant and wide-spread species of deer in Australia.
There is a very strong population in Tasmania where large areas of ideal habitat consisting of undulating grassland broken by areas of hardwood forest provide excellent feed and cover. In New South Wales, fallow deer are found in the Glen Innes area and, further south, near Lake George in the ACT. Queensland’s fallow deer are located near the border with New South Wales in the Stanhope/Warwick area of the Southern Highlands.
There are several populations of fallow deer in Victoria, perhaps the most significant one being a herd living in mixed softwood/hardwood forest at Koetong in the north-east of the State. Other groups such as those along the Murray River, in the Healesville/ Narbethong area, in suitable fringe country just north of the Central Highlands and on Sunday Island are relatively insignificant. Small and scattered populations exist elsewhere in the State are mainly the result of escapes from deer farms-these latter groups are not likely to expand in most places because of habitat limitations.
The management of fallow deer in the south-east of South Australia is a role model for management of deer on private land anywhere in Australia.