A motion passed by the Blue Mountains City Council last night supported a 2040 target to remove all feral deer from the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
‘We welcome the strong support for action on growing deer numbers that are threatening the ecosystems of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area’, Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
‘A slow invasion of the highly significant Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area by feral deer is taking place. Unless all land managers step up with a coordinated strategy and resources, we will see degradation of rainforests and wetlands, threatened species habitat and other ecosystems.
Feral deer moved into the southern parts of the World Heritage area in the 1990s and are now spreading, moving rapidly into areas burnt in the Black Summer bushfires.
New feral deer populations have emerged in areas such as Mellong on the Putty Road, Bilpin, Nullo Mountain, Jenolan Caves and Abercrombie as a result of escapes from deer farms and deliberate releases by hunters. They have been spotted in the Megalong and Jamieson Valleys and are only kilometres away from the escarpment rainforests near the Three Sisters and the Grose Valley.
Councils that are part of the 1 million hectare Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area were approached by the Blue Mountains Feral Deer Working Group calling for more coordinated action on feral deer.
Last night, the Blue Mountains City Council voted to support a ‘comprehensive and well-resourced management plan to stop further spread of feral deer in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, protect sensitive environmental areas and eradicate isolated populations’.
NPWS NSW undertook aerial shooting of feral deer and other pest animals following the massive Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 that burnt most of the World Heritage area. While there continues to be aerial shooting, there is no strategic approach to removing isolated populations and stopping the spread of feral deer.
‘We will be working with the Blue Mountains City Council to support greater action from the NSW and federal governments,’ said Mr Cox.
The draft National Deer Action Plan is currently open for comment until 20 March and proposes to contain the spread of feral deer and remove isolated populations.
The Blue Mountains Feral Deer Working Group would like all people who visit or live in the Greater Blue Mountains to report deer sightings via an online form or using the citizen science app iNaturalist.
Background notes for editors:
Full motion supported by Blue Mountains City Council on 28 Feb 2023:
- That the Council notes that:
- Feral deer are an urgent and growing threat to native wildlife, ecosystems and watercourses in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and across the Blue Mountains City Local Government Area.
- Feral deer also pose significant risks to human safety through vehicle collisions, including on the Bells Line of Road, Putty Road and, in future, along the Great Western Highway.
- Five different species of feral deer have been recorded within the Greater Blue Mountains in recent years and their numbers and geographic extent are rapidly growing.
- Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deer is a Key Threatening Process under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and feral deer cause environmental damage by:
- Destroying native vegetation by trampling, grazing, and ring-barking young trees.
- Fouling waterholes, eroding watercourse and causing soil erosion
- Spreading weeds and potentially pathogens such as Phytophthora cinnamomi.
- Competing with native grazers such as wallabies, kangaroos, and wombats.
- Reducing post-fire resilience of regenerating vegetation.
- The draft National Feral Deer Action Plan has found that left uncontrolled in good conditions, feral deer populations can increase by 34–50% every year and that recreational hunting is not an effective means of controlling population growth.
- There is currently no comprehensive management plan for feral deer control in the Greater Blue Mountains, information about feral deer numbers and extent are out-of-date and patchy and the resources dedicated to control are insufficient for the scale of the problem;
- That the Council express its support for a target to ensure the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is deer-free by 2040;
- That the Council calls on the NSW and Federal Governments to:
- Comprehensively survey the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and its adjoining boundary areas to assess the existing numbers and location of feral deer.
- Develop a comprehensive and well-resourced management plan to stop further spread of feral deer in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, protect sensitive environmental areas and eradicate isolated populations.
- Commit to ensuring the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is deer-free by 2040;
- That the Council write to our local Federal and State Members of Parliament, the NSW and Federal Environment Minister and shadow NSW and Federal Environment Ministers advising them of this motion, expressing our support for this proposal and urging them to support it; and
- That the Council make a submission in support of the National Feral Deer Action Plan, which highlights the threat feral deer pose to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and the need for increased resources to stop their spread.
Map of feral deer extent surrounding the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area:
Map: Produced by Blue Mountains Feral Deer Working Group 2023. CC 4.0. Available for use with credit. Based on 2020 survey data provided by NSW Department of Primary Industries.