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Monday, 05 September 2016 20:25

It’s Time to Declare Feral Deer a Pest

In the 19th century deer were imported and released into areas like Royal National Park because they were regarded as useful (for food and sport) and beautiful animals. Now their numbers have exploded.

At the request of the premier, the NSW Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has completed a pest animals management review. They released a draft report early this year and held public hearings around the state and received of over 600 submissions. Its final report and recommendations were submitted to the premier in August. The review found that pest animals cause considerable stress in communities:

It’s hard to measure, but even conservative estimates indicate NSW farmers spend around $22 million to manage pest animals per year, while the total annual economic impact of pest animals in NSW is conservatively estimated to be $170 million. Pest animals also affect 40% of all listed threatened species.

The findings cover pests that have long been causing problems for landholders such as wild dogs, pigs, foxes and rabbits, but they now also recognise that deer are a major cause for concern. For years feral deer have been allowed to run wild in NSW with management aimed at keeping deer numbers high enough to be a game resource. As the report states:

We need to manage the risks and impacts from all invasive species and that means treating feral deer and feral cats as pests just like wild pigs and dogs.

Therefore one recommendation made is that NSW government should:

  • exclude all species of deer from the NSW Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002
  • include all species of feral deer in a regulation addressing pest animals under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015

The Invasive Species Council is concerned that the powerful hunting lobby is determined to maintain the status quo. The Council is calling on people to contact the premier and the Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair and support the recommendations of the NRC in order to protect our natural environment from exploding feral deer numbers.

Here is a selection of facts supporting the case for the declaration of feral deer as a pest species. They:

  • are out of control throughout NSW
  • have been declared by the NRC to be our 'most important emerging pest animal threat'
  • are a menace on our roads – in the Illawarra region feral deer have caused nine fatalities in a seven year period and 100 collisions with trains
  • can be found in most regions of NSW, threatening the Royal National Park and the Illawarra escarpment rainforests, Kosciuszko National Park, the coastal forests between Newcastle and Coffs Harbour and even woodlands and rangelands in the west
  • damage fences, pastures and cropsand can spread weeds and diseases
  • impact rainforests and forests
  • limit regeneration by reducing seed production and seedling recruitment, heavily browse ferns and other plants and push open the forest understorey
  • have already been declared a feral pest in Queensland, SA and WA