Large pests Wild Deer and Pigs

Why are Deer and Pigs pests in Aotearoa?

Pigs root up the ground looking for plants and bugs to eat. Whilst doing this they can create a lot of damage to tree roots and other plants.

A Feral pig can do a lot of damage to vegetation as they root around for food.

Pigs are also a significant predator of Aotearoa's native land snail, Powelliphanta

Powelliphanta snails are among the largest snails in the world, and also among our most threatened invertebrates.

Pigs also eat native birds eggs, baby chicks, lizards and skinks.

Check out how this Weta escapes feral pigs nearby!

Because pigs are omnivores, they also eat supplejack, Nikau palm trees, tree roots, fungi, fruit and berries therefore stealing food many native birds would usually eat to survive.

Feral pigs differ slightly from domesticated pigs, they are usually smaller and more compact looking, have a bushy tail rather than a curly tail, a longer snout, longer bristley hair and a narrower back.

You will typically find pigs wherever they can find cover. Native and exotic forests or thick extensive areas of scrub, bracken or gorse.

Deer are also a big problem here in Aotearoa

In the first decades of the twentieth century deer were so prolific that they were often seen in herds of 50 - 150!

Nowadays, this is very unlikely to see as hunting and pest control has helped to reduce their numbers.

There are 7 species of deer in Aotearoa but Red Deer are the most common

  • Red deer Cervus elaphus scoticus
  • Wapiti C.elaphus nelsoni
  • Sika deer C. nippon
  • Sambar C. unicolor
  • Rusa deer C. timorensis
  • Fallow deer Dama dama
  • White-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus
A Red Stag

Male red deer are called stags and have antlers, while female red deer are called hinds and do not have antlers. Stags are much larger than hinds. Both sexes are red-brown or grey-brown in colour, with a short tail which is red-brown in colour.

This Mahoe's branches have been broken and stripped of leaves by a deer.

Like Feral Pigs, Deer also compete with native birds for food as they graze on many native plants. Because Deer are larger, they eat a lot more, therefore potentially starving native wildlife.

Deer eat, in abundance, palatable plants within reach, and have damaged some forests almost irreversibly.

Red deer are found in high alpine areas, steep hill country, river valleys and coastal lowlands. They are mostly associated with indigenous forest, and native scrublands and grasslands at high altitude. However, they are also found in many exotic forests and like to graze on farmland pasture.

Hunting is the best way to manage deer and protect native plants

Stags "roar" during mating season to attract a mate- it can be very loud and heard from a long way away!

Activity time!

Use the invertebrate tally sheet below to see if you have a healthy backyard! Having lots of insects is a good sign there are no feral pigs around snuffling them all up for dinner!

Print this sheet off- it will be posted in the comments section of this facebook post or found on our website so you can print it off

Make note of what you caught, the date, and location. Some invertebrates such as hoppers, springtails and larvae may be very small and hard to see but are an important part of the survey.

You could also draw or take photos, and record your findings in a nature journal.

Here are 3 ways you can find insects:

Leaf litter investigation

  1. Find an area with leaf litter (fallen leaves found on ground, under trees/ shrubs).
  2. Scoop up two handfuls or small spades of leaves from the leaf litter.
  3. Put the leaf litter on a tray.
  4. Separate out leaves and look for movement and signs of life.
  5. Record your findings.
Remember: Be careful with the creatures, and put them back safely when you're done.

Soil dig

  1. Find an area with soil you can dig up. Look for soft, dark coloured soil as you will probably find more invertebrates.
  2. Dig a hole with about 5–10 cm wide and deep.
  3. Put your soil sample on a tray or plastic lid. Separate the pieces of soil, looking for signs of life.
  4. Record your findings.

Tips for soil digging:

  • Wait for a day when it is not too dry or too wet.
  • Dry soil (usually in summer months) can be hard to dig in.
  • Wet, muddy soil (during winter months) can be very messy.
  • Use a blunt trowel or small spade to dig. Working with adult helpers works best.

Pitfall trap

Make a pitfall trap for catching and studying ground-dwelling invertebrates.

  1. Find an area near vegetation (e.g. under trees/ shrubs). Look for soft, dark coloured soil as you will probably find more invertebrates.
  2. Use a shovel to dig a small hole.
  3. Place a clean yoghurt pot in the hole. Fill any empty space around the pot with soil. Make sure that the top of the pot is level with the ground, or you won’t catch anything.
  4. Add some leaves to the bottom of your pot. This gives the creatures somewhere to hide in the trap and reduces the likelihood of larger invertebrates preying on smaller ones.
  5. Check your trap after a few hours. Or, since many invertebrates are most active at night, you could leave your trap overnight. Check your trap in the morning, before it starts to get warm.
  6. Empty the trap into a tray to see what creatures wandered in. Use the ID guides to help identify what kind of invertebrates they are.
  7. Record your findings.


Created with images by Jamie Street - "untitled image" • Dušan Smetana - "untitled image" • Phil Botha - "Pīwakawaka (Fantail) on a crisp Autumn morning. " • David T - "These tiny ducklings and their mother wandered over at dusk to a fresh water puddle, unperturbed by the people around. The reflection in the ducklings eye shows the setting sun." • Ed van duijn - "untitled image" • Kevin Jackson - "untitled image" • Hari Nandakumar - "untitled image" • Te Akatea - "untitled image" • Edward Watson - "On a forest walk during a family holiday in New Zealand getting constantly left behind by my family as I got lost in the micro worlds of the Puketi Forest." • Alex Green - "Sunset Gremlins" • Nika Akin - "Green bug on a leaf." • Kristine Tanne - "Fallen leaves on the ground - Autumn Macro" • Daria Nepriakhina - "Snails crawling ground"