The Australian Senate has delivered a landmark report on the increasing impacts of feral deer, pigs and goats across the country and a roadmap for reform, one that all state and federal governments should heed.
“This is a wake-up call to governments that hard-hoofed feral animals are driving an environmental and rural crisis across Australia, especially from rapidly expanding deer numbers,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
“Most of the Senate report recommendations centre on feral deer, where six species presently occupy less than 10% of Australia, but are projected to spread to almost the entire continent.”
The major recommendation from the report is to declare feral deer an environmental pest across all jurisdictions to ‘enable more appropriate and coordinated control actions’.
“Despite historical notions of deer as a valued species, the overwhelming evidence of the inquiry shows deer in many areas are in plague proportions, causing major environmental damage and costing some landholders $100,000 or more a year,” Mr Cox said.
“Deer will pose an increasing risk of livestock diseases, road accidents and occupation of urban areas. A 2019 Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences pest animal and weeds survey found that feral deer were the most commonly reported recently-arrived pest animal.
“The report is timely. The Tasmanian Government is doing nothing to remove deer that have recently invaded the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, instead opting to release new areas for hunting, and deer remain protected as a hunting resource in Tasmania and Victoria,” Mr Cox said.
Other key recommendations of the inquiry include:
- All jurisdictions to remove impediments to feral deer control on private and public lands.
- The elimination of feral deer from all World Heritage Areas and other areas of environmental significance.
- Implementation, supported by long-term funding, of a national pig and deer action plan.
- Feral deer and pig coordinators to report yearly to national, state and territory parliaments.
- Listing of feral deer as a key threatening process under federal environmental law.
- Provision of funding beyond 2022 for the research body Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.
- The Commonwealth to hold a Productivity Commission inquiry into invasive species management.
The report found that while national feral pig and deer coordinators have recently been appointed and some progress has been made in NSW and Victoria, the Environment and Invasives Committee needs to improve its national oversight to better drive invasive species management.
The inquiry concluded that recreational hunting is ‘not an effective standalone control measure’ and declaration of deer as a pest species will not limit recreational hunting.