In 1905 elk, known mostly in New Zealand as wapiti, were introduced to the wild country of the South Island’s Fiordland. They colonised an area of some 200,000 hectares, but along the way incurred the wrath of bureaucracy, much like all other introduced, free-range big game species in New Zealand. In the early years, some incredible trophies were shot, but in time inbreeding with red deer, helicopter venison recoveries, removal of quality stock and an unsympathetic government saw the herd become a poor remnant of its once great promise. The trophies deteriorated to the point where animals shot in the wapiti country became classified as Fiordland deer: neither wapiti or red, but a mix at best.
However, in recent times an accord of sorts has existed between the Wapiti Foundation (hunting interests) and DOC (government interests) to find a win-win scenario. The result was a simple plan: Use helicopters to keep the numbers of deer low in the wapiti country, but do not remove animals with obvious wapiti traits. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is working well, and both groups deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. Over 2,500 non-wapiti deer have been removed thus far, and over the last couple of ballot hunting seasons some mighty wapiti-like bulls have been shot. Wapiti are once more being seen on the open tops.
The plan is working well. The Wapiti Foundation also helps the country by pumping some donated or sponsored funds back into the area the wapiti inhabit. They are involved in stoat control work and monitor the health of many native birds, such as the blue duck or whio. Check out the foundation website to see what they have achieved http://www.fiordlandwapitifoundation.org/ Management is possible when the different parties work together.