The long overdue release of Deer Control Plans for east and west Victoria recognise the devastating impacts feral deer are having on local environments, economies and communities.
‘Deer were introduced into Victoria for game hunting between 1860 and 1880. Feral deer have since been allowed to increase in population and spread for the interests of some recreational hunters. There are now estimated to be more than a million feral deer covering nearly 40% of the state. Until recently there has been no control in place to limit the population or manage their impact,’ said Invasive Species Council deer project officer Peter Jacobs.
‘It is a sad indictment of invasive animal management in Victoria that we have watched the impact of invasive feral deer grow over 150 years and waited for the species to become a major pest before action is taken.
‘Recreational deer hunting has clearly failed to control numbers. Control is now a necessary but significant cost to the community.
‘The Invasive Species Council welcomes the investment by the Victorian government in feral deer control and the release of these plans to strategically guide that investment over the next 5 years. But this is just the first step in addressing the devastating impact of feral deer across the state.
‘The protected status of feral deer must also be removed.
‘It is inexplicable that the government now finally recognises the impacts of feral deer and is investing in their control, yet keep deer a protected species under Victoria’s Wildlife Act for game purposes which hinders their control.
‘The Invasive Species Council calls on the Victorian government to take the opportunity in the current review of the Wildlife Act to remove the protected status of deer and declare them a pest animal which they have clearly become.
‘The plans have been well thought through, identifying areas where feral deer can be eliminated from and prevented from occupying along with important biodiversity values that are at risk and need protection.
‘However, in eastern Victoria the area is almost totally occupied by feral deer. There are few opportunities to eliminate and contain deer in the east and asset protection is the only option for now. In western Victoria where the population is more isolated, there are opportunities to eliminate feral deer and prevent spread.
‘Victoria needs increased funding, more research and new tools and plans to allow our feral deer management efforts to be more ambitious over time to drive down their spread and impacts.
‘A recent economic report into the impact of feral deer in Victoria by Frontier Economics found serious costs imposed on farmers, foresters, the environment and community safety, estimated to be up to $2.2 billion over the next 30 years if feral deer aren’t adequately controlled,’ said Mr Jacobs.