The 'roar' in the hills

RED DEER: Local deer expert Paul Rattray believes the sounds in the Gympie region are coming from the red deer during mating season.
RED DEER: Local deer expert Paul Rattray believes the sounds in the Gympie region are coming from the red deer during mating season. Photo Contributed

STRANGE noises in the early and late hours of the day are causing a stir around the Gympie region.

No, it isn't yowies, it is the resident red deer population in the middle of their mating season, known as the "roar” or the "rut”.

Red deer are an introduced species and are listed as feral in Australia.

Valley deer expert Paul Rattray has been studying the region's red deer population for years and recently wrote a book on the subject.

"I think that the Mary Valley and Gympie regions has a pretty healthy population of red deer, which is most of what people are hearing around the place,” he said.

"The male red deer make these calls when they are in mating season - around March and April.”

He said people generally confuse their sounds.

"Initially, someone might think it is a bull.

"It is more drawn out than a bull.

"Often they will give a couple of barks at the end of the call.

"Most people think it sounds like a strange cow, then realise it's not a cow and they begin to wonder what it is.”

Mr Rattray said the growth in population had brought the deer into contact with humans as they roam.

"One local farmer had never heard deer in his region before.

"He heard it and was concerned, he thought it was a yowie or something like that.

"I know their movement through the region.

"Like fishing spots, you don't share that information.

"During the roar, they travel all over the place. They call out to see if they can find any females.

"There is a limit; there are some red deer up around the Woolooga area, not too far north of Gympie.

"West to Murgon and Goomeri and even Kingaroy area.

"It hooks back to the Brisbane Valley area and up into the Sunshine Coast and Mary Valley region,” Mr Rattray said.

He said there is very little physical threat imposed by male deer, but the main issue was environmental.

"There's a few anecdotal cases where people have been chased by stags. As a rule, red deer will run the other way.

"My understanding from the Australian Deer Association is they don't carry any significant diseases to humans or cattle. They do cause damage to waterholes and waterways.

"They will carry some weeds on their coat, or eat certain weeds and deposit them as they travel along.

"People with cattle especially, they feed from the tops of hills rather than coming up from the bottom. In winter, they will come down to finish off the legumes before the cattle get to them.

"In large numbers they can compete with cattle quite significantly.”

Mr Rattray has worked as a consultant in deer management.

"My interest in them is really sustainable management. I don't think it is realistic to cull them completely.

"My view is that it is far better to the maintain them sustainably,” he said.

"Female red deer primarily compete with cattle. Stags not so much - they eat more woody plants and tend to be more up in the hills.

"We have an issue in the Mary Valley and Brisbane Valley where the shooters primarily shoot males, which leads to a disproportionate female population which compete with cattle.”

Topics:  gympie mary valley nature queensland department of agriculture

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