Cervus elaphus scoticus

Common Name(s)

Red deer




Red deer occur on a wide range of habitats, including alpine areas and steep hill country, river flats, coastal lowlands, forest (exotic and native), shrubland and grassland. However they prefer areas with a mixture of forest, short scrub/grassland mainly found along the timber line. They are opportunistic herbivorous feeder that both browse and graze. They favour large –leaved herbs (e.g. Ranunculus spp. Apeaceae) and grasses (e.g. Chionochloa spp.), large-leaved Coprosma spp., pate, Pseudopanax spp., hen and chicken fern and particularly attracted to turnips. They are good swimmers and can reach islands closer inshore.


Red deer are of medium size with a uniform brown coat (lighter below) and round antler (mature males with >10 tines).

Similar Species

Wapiti (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Sika deer (Cervus nippon), Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor unicolor), Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis), Axis deer (Axis axis), Fallow deer (Dama dama dama), White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis) and hybrids between some of these species.

Threat To Plants

Browsing and grazing of palatable species (they are also inclined to bark-chew), which my alter species regeneration and vegetation composition. When occurring in large numbers they will destroy the understorey of native forest by overbrowsing, grazing, bark stripping and trampling, which consecutively will also increases soil erosion and therefore also the fertility of the site.


Throughout New Zealand, also Northland, Auckland, Taranaki and western King Country where they had not been recorded in the past.


Weight: 85-215kg; acrominal height: 95-130cm

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Food and game

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand in or near forested areas at numerous sites on both main islands between 1851 and 1919 (250 individuals). By 1923 about 1000 had been liberated into the wild and around the late 1940s most of the southern and central North Island and remote areas of the South and Steward Island had been colonised. Further escapes and illegal release have assisted their spread particularly in the 1980s.