Deer a pest species: Government urged to take action on ferals

Plague: Rusa deer at Era beach in the Royal National Park north of Stanwell Park, just one of the places where the population is out of control.
Plague: Rusa deer at Era beach in the Royal National Park north of Stanwell Park, just one of the places where the population is out of control.

It’s perhaps the only issue that has the Greens calling for more shooting, and shooters preferring the existing restrictions.

The problem of a feral deer population that has “exploded” across New South Wales could be dealt with by a simple change in the law, environmentalists told MPs earlier this month.

A delegation from Illawarra and beyond travelled to NSW parliament on April 6 as part of the push to persuade the government to declare deer a pest species.

This change would make it easier to shoot or cull deer, which have expanded their reach more than 60 per cent across the state over six years, it was claimed.

“Deer maps in NSW show that the population has expanded to cover about 13 per cent of the state – a 62 per cent increase in the past six years,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.  “Landowners and farmers are being severely impacted by this expansion of deer territory in our state."

At present deer are classed as game, so can only be hunted with a licence. There are additional restrictions placed on deer hunting including time of day and ability to use spotlighting, shooting from vehicles and baits or decoys.

“It is clear these restrictions, along with the lack of a government plan, make it impossible to control deer populations in NSW,” Mr Cox said.

“This deer explosion is robbing landholders of their livelihood and we call on the NSW Parliament and the state government to ensure deer are listed as the pest that they are.”

The NSW Natural Resources Commission recommended in 2016 that deer be listed as a pest and State Cabinet will soon make its decision on whether to do so.

South Coast residents know only too well about the damage caused by the animals, from yards and trees being ripped up to drivers being endangered.

The hunter: Culling deer would be easier if the animal was classed as a pest, MPs were told by representatives from the Illawarra on Thursday.

The hunter: Culling deer would be easier if the animal was classed as a pest, MPs were told by representatives from the Illawarra on Thursday.

Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham said less than 1000 deer were killed in 2015-16 in NSW, compared with more than 50,000 in Victoria.

“The NSW government have been dragging the chain on declaring deer a pest for many years because of political pressure from the Shooters and Fishers Party who want them to remain a protected hunting resource,” he said.

The Greens want a removal of “bag” limits on deer, more culling, no restriction on night-time hunting, and an obligation on land managers to remove deer.

A spokeswoman for Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair declined to answer whether the government agreed with Mr Cox’s estimate of a 13 per cent reach across NSW, or the estimate that 30,000 deer needed to be culled.

“The management of wild deer is currently being considered in response to the Natural Resource Commission’s review of pest animal management in NSW,” she said.

“However, the minister understands how contentious the issue of feral deer management is and will ensure that the views of all key stakeholders are taken into account when considering the government’s response.”