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The Secret Lives of Sika Stags!
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Twelve sika stags (six mature stags and six sub adult stags) have now been carrying radio for almost two years and the results are fascinating to say the least! Now that two ruts have past what have we learnt?

The first thing is the commonly held view that stags stay on Poronui all their lives is wrong! One stag has travelled 14 kilometres each March to rut in the same gully. In fact in the first year the mature stags all left the property. Another travelled 15 km in the first year but was shot before we found out whether he made the same trip in 2011. To show that you can never take anything for granted one of the stags that left Poronui to rut in 2010 decided to stay home this year.

To add to the confusing picture most of the younger stags have chosen not to leave their summer ranges despite the fact that some are now more than three years old. Once again there was an exception! In this case a young stag – collared as a spiker in November 2010 moved 12.7 km between 7 April and 18 April to a rutting territory in the Te Matai Stream catchment.

What have we learnt so far? Firstly the grass on Poronui is incredibly important to sika stags in a large area of the Kaimanawas with animals consistently occupying summer territories on the property before moving up to 15 km to rut. The deer management practices employed on Poronui are benefiting hunters over a large area of public hunting land. The second thing is that while there seems to be constant behaviour individual animals will still decide to do their own things from, time to time. Whether this is due to changing social circumstances or it is simply random is too hard to tell at this stage.

As might be expected being a sika stag in one of the most heavily hunted parts of New Zealand is hardly a safe occupation. Two stags have been shot to date with another now on the missing in action list. One stag was shot by a Poronui client its collar indistinguishable under the heavy mane early one April morning. With the older collars now fading it is getting harder for hunters to identify a collared stag. If you do shoot a collared stag please return the collar intact so we can reuse it.

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