Axis deer are threatening parts of Texas.
What are they?
The axis deer, also known as the chital, is regarded as one of the most beautiful breeds of deer, and they’re a far cry from the native Texas whitetail.
Axis deer sport an orange coat dotted with white spots, not unlike a whitetail fawn, and white patches on their throats. The males grow massive antlers, usually with three to six points, and can weigh up to 250 lbs.
Similar to the elk, these deer are also extremely vocal, letting out distinctive sharp, barking sounds to communicate. Males are even known to bugle.
How did they get here?
Originally from southern India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, the axis deer was introduced to Texas in 1932, ideally as a game animal. At first, this worked out well. They were restricted to farms and controlled hunting sites, and provided ample meat to anyone who could bag one.
Of course, as often happens with animals in captivity, many axis deer eventually escaped to run wild around Texas. While the vast majority of axis deer remain in captivity, over 6,000 of them now roam freely, taking advantage of the warm weather and ample grasses similar to their native land.
Though not known to be an aggressive species, the primary threat of the axis deer lies in the fact that, large as Texas is, there simply isn’t enough room for two thriving species of deer. The axis deer and the whitetail must compete for resources.
Unfortunately, the whitetail aren’t the only ones to suffer. Local farmers must now protect their fields and gardens from this larger, bolder forager who stands to ruin their fields.
The axis deer is also unfortunately hardy, which is likely one reason they were introduced in the first place. While one might expect a foreign species to succumb easily to diseases in a new environment, the axis deer do not. In fact, they are more resistant to outbreaks than the whitetails so, while whitetail populations are often culled, the axis populations continue to grow.
As is common with invasive species, the axis deer also have few natural predators. While coyotes and bobcats will go after them, they are powerless to make a significant dent in the axis deer population.
What can we do?
Good news: The best way to manage the axis deer is also the simplest. You can hunt them whenever you like! In the state of Texas, non-native and exotic game don’t have a limited hunting season. So, unlike whitetails, you can bag an axis deer any time you like.
Better yet, there is no bag or possession limit, so you can bring home as many axis deer as you like, so long as you have room in your truck. The only special thing you need is a Nongame permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which differs from the standard state hunting license.
Of course, most people who want to start axis hunting in particular will flock to hunting ranches, like the Ox Hunting Ranch. As more and more axis deer run wild, it may be just as easy to bag one without making a special trip or shelling out the extra money.