Tasmania and Victoria remain the last two states in Australia that continue to treat deer as a hunting resource instead of managing them as the pest species they have become.
Feral deer destroy native vegetation, trample plants and ring-bark young trees. They foul waterholes, cause soil erosion, spread weeds and increase the potential for transmitting diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.
Tasmania’s population of fallow deer has more than tripled since the 1970s and by 2023 is likely to increase by about 40%. It has been estimated that by mid-century the population could exceed one million.
Feral deer also damage farming infrastructure and cause crop loss through browsing.
Deer populations are moving into and threatening the world famous Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and there are reports of them moving outside of their range and into new areas across Tasmania, including Bruny Island, the outskirts of Launceston and Hobart, Mole Creek, Deloraine and Dover.
The Tasmanian Government must design and implement a deer management strategy and ensure that:
- Deer are managed as a pest animal in line with the rest of Australia.
- Deer no longer receive special protection under the Tasmanian Wildlife Regulations.
- Full results of the aerial deer survey must be released to the public and be fully transparent.
- Surveys of deer encroachment on the TWWHA are completed and acted on.
- Deer containment lines are drawn at the edge of the TWWHA and other suitable boundaries and resources secured to ensure that all deer beyond containment lines are eradicated.
- Deer are eradicated from Bruny Island within two years.
Impacts of deer on the environment
Greening Australia estimates that 30 per cent of its $6 million budget for the Midlands Restoration Program was spent on deer control and mitigation from deer rubbing and ringbarking trees, deer proof fencing, deer damage costs and deer monitoring.
The federal government has identified that feral deer have major impacts on the natural environment:
- Destroying native vegetation.
- Trampling plants, grazing, and ring-barking young trees.
- Fouling waterholes.
- Causing soil erosion.
- Spreading weeds.
- Increasing potential for transmitting diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.
In 2016 the Tasmanian Legislative Council held an inquiry into Wild Fallow Deer in that state with particular reference to:
- Environmental impacts on public and private land.
- Any impact on commercial activities on private land.
- The partly protected status of fallow deer under the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010.
- Commercial opportunities for the use of wild population stocks.
- Any matters incidental thereto.
The inquiry found:
- There is limited information on population density and dispersal of deer in Tasmania.
- Deer can cause extensive damage to commercial and native plant species and research on wider damage limited.
- Sensitive biodiversity areas are being damaged.
- Deer have spread into sensitive conservation areas including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and conservation areas on Bruny Island.
- The Tasmanian Deer Advisory Committee is primarily focused on interests of hunters.