The Victorian Government announced on 11 July that it has made it easier to control deer on private land. This is great news for deer control and for landholders, who previously had to apply for a permit and then abide by conditions that specified numbers they could kill and that prohibited night shooting, which is often the most effective method.
Deer are legally protected in Victoria and not officially designated as a pest. As a result, government policy tends to ensure that there is a sustainable harvest of deer for hunters rather then to restrict their spread, despite their significant impacts on the environment and farm properties.
Sambar are listed as a ‘potential threatening process’ under Victoria’s threatened species laws for their impacts on threatened plants. Deer reduce plant diversity and compete with native animals and livestock. They cause physical damage through antler rubbing, trampling and wallowing, spread weeds and, potentially, diseases and are increasingly causing car accidents.
Unfortunately, control of hog deer, found on the Gippsland coast, still needs a permit. More generally, the failure to list deer as a pest species means that there is no coordinated program to address escalating deer numbers in Victoria, thought to number in the hundreds of thousands and climbing.
The Invasive Species Council has been pushing for changes in the status of deer for many years in recognition of their serious environmental harm. The recent changes, resulting from efforts by the Victorian Farmers Federation, are a first step.