This is a relatively new problem, but it is escalating. Spotlighting occurs everywhere near the coast, where the average number of deer shot per vehicle per night is six. Deer traps are proliferating, too. The impetus behind this is the high market value of venison, currently at $6 NZ a pound, about $3.75 US.
Rusa deer, of course, are not native to New Caledonia. They were introduced in 1870 when the governor of Java gifted a number of the animals to the wife of New Caledonia Governor Guillian. Since introduction, the rusa population has grown rapidly, and the total number is estimated between 200,000 and 300,000. About 30 farms currently hold about 14,000 deer behind wire. These farm animals are semi-wild, and live generally un-molested until mustered into yards when selected animals are sent to the abattoir. Most farms are located in the Boulouparis region, which is roughly 73 kilometers (45 miles) north of Noumea.
There are still some true free-range hunting operations in selected rural areas, but in order to continue producing big trophies, property owners are going to have to control spotlighting and make enough from trophy hunting clients to protect their deer herds. One landowner I met with on my trip has decided to take a different approach. He is creating an alternative hunting option that will guarantee visiting hunters a gold medal trophy.
John and Doris Fong are owners of Ouatom........(continued)