George Franklyn "Skipper" Yerex was a key figure during the "Deer Wars" he was born in Wellington in 1893.
George enlisted in the Territorial Force in 1910 and served in Egypt and Palestine during WW1, initially as second in command of the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, and then as officer commanding the 16th Company of the Imperial Camel Corps. He was promoted to captain in 1917.
After the war, he worked as a paid ranger for the Auckland Acclimatisation Society in 1926 and he joined the Department of Internal Affairs in 1927. In 1930 the department became responsible for the destruction of deer on a national scale, and Yerex, who had already surveyed the spread and impact of deer, was appointed to direct the operations. Although now a civilian, he retained his military mien and title, and ran the deer destruction operations like a military campaign.
In the early years Yerex organised and directed the whole project single-handedly. He set stringent conditions of employment and demanded high standards of his deer-cullers. The men were paid a retainer plus a bonus for animals killed. He was a natural leader with the ability to recruit and retain good men. The cullers in turn held him in high regard, referring to him as ‘The Skipper’.
During WW2 Yerex re-joined the Army and was appointed chief instructor of the forest and jungle warfare wing in Trentham. Yerex used his trainees as a deer control force in the Tararua Range, even insisting on their recovering skins. In March 1945 he was posted to the retired list with the rank of major.
‘Major’ Yerex resumed his job directing government operations to destroy deer, as well as chamois, thar and wild goats; now there were also possums to cope with. Internal Affairs had responsibility for the administration of game birds and fish, and also for protected native birds. Yerex brought together all these roles into a Wildlife Branch (later Division) within the department, and was controller of wildlife from 1945 until September 1956, when he retired because of failing health. Earlier that year the animal control functions of the Wildlife Division had been transferred to the New Zealand Forest Service. Yerex died at Te Awamutu on 17 January 1967, survived by his wife and children.