Swimming stag surprises fishermen

A deer swims in the Queen Charlotte Sound.
A deer swims in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Wellington doctor Hugh McCabe has seen dolphins and killer whales swimming in the Marlborough Sounds, but he never expected to see a stag treading water during a fishing trip a fortnight ago.

Mr McCabe was on a boat heading towards Waikawa Marina in the Queen Charlotte Sound when he spotted the deer about a kilometre from shore at the entrance to Curious Cove on Sunday, August 15.

"We couldn't believe it, we thought it was a pile of sticks," he said.

The boat, skippered by DeanBussell, followed the deer until it reached the shore.

"It was a good swimmer, it was making good speed," Mr McCabe said.

The deer was exhausted when it reached land and took about five minutes to recover before heading into the bush, he said.

Department of Conservation Sounds area biodiversity threats programme manager Phil Clerke said deer were known to swim to islands occasionally.

The animals "get there under their own steam" and were known to be on Blumine Island in Queen Charlotte Sound and Maud Island in Pelorus Sound, both pest-free conservation reserves.

They were not a predator on the islands because deer ate only plants, Mr Clerke said.

He did not know why deer choose to swim but said it could be because of pressure to get away from hunters. It was most likely not because of a shortage of food, he said.

"I don't think swimming is too foreign to deer. People just think about them [deer] keeping their feet dry," he said."It could happen way more than what people see because they [deer] are pretty active at night."

The Marlborough Express