NSW Government will remove special protection status for feral deer

In a major step forward for pest management the NSW Government will remove the protected ‘game’ status for feral deer on all private land across the state.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall today published a regulation that de-lists deer as a game animal on private land under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act, effective from 6 September 2019.

“Feral deer will now be treated like all other pest animals such as rabbits, foxes, goats and pigs,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.

“This will be a huge relief to land managers who have been tied up in wasteful red tape. No longer will contractors, friends and neighbours who plan to shoot feral deer on private land need a game licence.

“It simplifies pest control. A game licence will not be needed for shooting any pest on private land.

“Shooters will still need a gun licence and abide by animal welfare laws. Of course, they must first obtain landowner permission to enter or shoot on private land.

“The state’s deer crisis has seen exploding populations, with no sign of slowing.”

In the seven years from 2009 to 2016 the amount of land invaded by feral deer in NSW has more than doubled, increasing from 8% to 17% of the state. In many areas deer are now in plague numbers.

“NSW now joins most other Australian states and territories in designating deer a pest species,” Mr Cox said.

“This leaves Victoria and Tasmania protecting deer for hunters.

“In 2002 feral deer were first protected in NSW as a game animal and draconian restrictions were placed on landholders. Together with bag limits, bans on night hunting and closed seasons, these misguided rules contributed to the spread of small but scattered deer populations originating as either escapees from deer farms or deer spread illegally by hunters.

“While many hunting organisations claimed to be the solution to feral deer control, they were wrong.

“Tragically, this is the main cause of today’s costly and destructive deer crisis.

“Modelling shows that without effective action, NSW’s six deer species will ultimately cover the entire state. Deer in Australia are without a major predator and current methods are insufficient to halt their spread and limit their damage.

“The NSW Government must refocus its efforts on deer control and containment by supporting the recently adopted regional pest animal strategies, strategies that designate deer a priority pest.”

Despite today’s change, hunters will still need a game licence to shoot deer and other pest animals in declared hunting areas within NSW state forests.

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