Report warns Tasmania’s feral deer herd out of control

Media Release |

A report released today warns Tasmania’s feral deer herd is out of control, destroying crops and invading the sensitive Wilderness World Heritage Area as numbers climb towards 100,000.

“Tasmania’s feral deer population is out of control and having major impacts on the state’s natural environment, World Heritage Area, farming communities, Aboriginal cultural heritage and the economy,” report author Peter Jacobs from the Invasive Species Council said today.

“The Tasmanian Government needs to shift gear and change its current deer management approach from one that protects these introduced animals as a hunting resource to one that puts the protection of the state’s natural environment and farmers first.”

The report, commissioned by the Bob Brown Foundation, maps out a feral deer management strategy that would protect Tasmania’s high value natural, cultural and agricultural assets by reducing and containing the deer population to 10,000 by 2032.

The report, Feral Deer Control: A Strategy for Tasmania, contains 28 actions to reduce the impacts of feral deer on environmental, social, cultural and economic values.

  • It splits Tasmania into five feral deer biosecurity zones, including two eradication zones and one control and containment zone.
  • The report’s author Peter Jacobs travelled across Tasmania interviewing farmers, conservation land managers and UTAS scholars including Professor Chris Johnson while researching the report.

Proposed feral deer biosecurity zones

Under this strategy the control of feral deer would be managed in accordance with area-based objectives aligned with the biosecurity principles for managing invasive species. This would be achieved by identifying five feral deer biosecurity zones covering all of Tasmania.

“It’s clear from my research that the current deer management strategy in Tasmania is putting farmers and land managers on a collision course with these highly destructive feral animals and that if the government doesn’t alter course the losers will be the Tasmanian environment, tourism, community and the economy,” Mr Jacobs said.

“If the Tasmanian Government fails to heed this wake-up call rocketing feral deer numbers will take an increasingly heavy toll on the Tasmanian economy and the emotional welfare of farmers.”

The report warns feral deer have become one of the most serious environmental and agricultural threats in Tasmania, with a population expanding rapidly from a few thousand in the 1970s to up to 100,000 today covering 27% of the state.

The population is growing at 11.5% each year, despite hunting and culling by farmers where allowed.

“Scientific modelling shows feral deer could occupy 54% of Tasmania and number one million animals by the middle of this century if more action isn’t taken to reduce numbers,” Mr Jacobs said.

“Feral deer are having a significant economic and psychological impact on farmers as many are fighting a losing battle against this large, introduced species.

“The cost of feral deer to the economy is already estimated be $100 million a year and we can expect this number to grow as the feral deer herd grows.

“We can also expect feral deer to spread deeper into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, creating grave environmental impacts and harming Tasmania’s international tourism reputation.

“If adopted by the Tasmanian Government the feral deer management strategy outlined in the report would shift management focus from protecting deer as a hunting resource to one that emphasizes a biosecurity approach that puts the protection of the natural environment and farmers first.”

Christine Milne of the Bob Brown Foundation said the Tasmanian Government has been asleep at the wheel, watching feral deer populations explode as the community becomes increasingly frustrated at the lack of real action to reduce deer numbers.

“It is clear current policies and approaches that are about maintaining a quality deer herd for hunting are failing to deal with the growing feral deer problem in Tasmania,” Ms Milne said.

“This report shows the Tasmanian Government must urgently stop protecting feral deer and take a new, biosecurity-based approach to managing deer numbers.”

Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area is under increasing threat from growing numbers of feral deer.

Learn how to make a submission to the new Tasmanian draft deer management plan and help protect Tasmania's unique wilderness areas.