The Invasive Species Council today called on the Victorian Government to scrap its proposed recreational hunting scheme, which will considerably worsen environmental damage from feral deer.
As documented in its report, A Deer Mistake, evidence from all over the world shows that recreational hunting almost never achieves effective control of feral animals.
Author of the report and Policy Officer for the Invasive Species Council, Dr Carol Booth said “feral deer are a very serious and growing environmental threat in Victoria, and the protection of deer for hunters’ sake should stop”.
The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment advertised on 19 November for expressions of interest from landholders to participate in a scheme to facilitate recreational hunting of deer, duck and quail on private properties. The department claims that the primary aim of the scheme is environmental.
“But the government is being insincere in its claims that the scheme is primarily for the benefit of the environment,” Dr Booth said. “The beneficiaries of the scheme are deer hunters and participating landowners, not the environment.
“Contrary to the government’s claims, the Invasive Species Council finds that the hunting scheme is likely to increase and expand deer populations, exacerbate environmental damage and create a stronger political lobby against control of deer for conservation reasons.
“Hunters claim they will maintain ‘sustainable’ levels of deer, but what is sustainable for hunting is not sustainable for the environment,” Dr Booth said.
In its report, the Invasive Species Council urges that the scheme to foster recreational deer hunting on private properties be abandoned, and that the government focus shifts to:
(a) Assessing deer populations and the harm they are causing to biodiversity.
(b) Implementing control programs to eradicate and reduce feral deer populations to limit harm to biodiversity.
“Feral deer should be treated as an environmental threat rather than protected as a hunting resource, and legal protection of deer should be rescinded,” Dr Booth said.
In summary the proposed recreational hunting scheme is likely to cause environmental harm in the following ways:
- The scheme will increase deer numbers on participant properties, and damage remnant vegetation and other environmental values.
- As deer spread out from participant properties in a spillover effect or to avoid hunting, or as landholders and hunters translocate deer so as to participate in the scheme or increase deer numbers numbers, the scheme will result in expanding and new deer populations elsewhere and greater environmental damage.
- Any incidental environmental gains from subsidised creation or protection of deer habitat on participant properties will be far outweighed by the costs of deer damage.
- Although hunters will claim to be managing deer populations at sustainable levels, recreational deer hunting is an ineffective method of deer control: because hunters have a strong incentive to maintain high deer populations for their hunting pleasure, they tend to limit hunting to where it is convenient, and they prefer hunting adult males with trophy antlers rather than female deer.
- The scheme will further entrench a protectionist approach to deer by creating a larger constituency and a stronger financial basis for the deer hunting lobby, which will politically undermine efforts to control deer for conservation reasons.
Examples of deer damage
Photos courtesy of Rohan Bilney.