Almost 120 deer are culled in alpine aerial shooting trial

ONE deer was shot every 10 minutes, and 119 were killed over four days, during Victoria’s first aerial deer cull last month.

Professional shooters spent 20 hours in helicopters between October 16 and 19, as part of the Parks Victoria aerial shooting trial of deer in the Alpine National Park.

The deer culled were almost all Sambar deer, with the exception of one Fallow deer.

Parks Victoria chief conservation scientist Mark Norman said the aerial cull trial was part of a three-year program to find the most efficient, costeffective and humane methods of managing deer in the Alpine National Park.

The Victorian National Parks Association estimates the Victorian deer population is growing at a rate of about 300,000 a year.

As part of its wider Alpine conservation strategy, in line with the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988), Parks Victoria began the deer aerial shooting trial in the Mt Buffalo and Alpine National Parks.

A Parks Victoria spokeswoman said the aim of the operation was to trial aerial shooting in spring at a range of elevations and in a variety of terrain and vegetation types.

Data collected from the trial will be reviewed to improve Parks Victoria’s understanding of the technique and how it might be used as part of an integrated mix of strategies for managing deer to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

A helicopter was used to target deer in areas around Mt Buffalo, Mt Feathertop and Mt Pinnibar, which included inaccessible and rugged terrain.

The spokeswoman said during the operation, air observers could identify significant track networks and large wallows that had been formed by deer across the park.

To ensure the animals were killed humanely, an independent vet was employed to monitor the animal welfare outcomes.

“All carcass locations were recorded and 10 per cent were examined by the vet to ensure shooting was carried out humanely,” she said.

“Those near waterways were visited and moved where required to prevent contamination of water catchments.”

Representatives from key stakeholder groups, including the Australian Deer Association, the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, the Game Management Authority, the Harrietville Community Forum and the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning, were briefed on the operation on Wednesday, October 17.

All data collected is now being reviewed, with the results combined with any from the ongoing ground shooting trial to find the best mix of methods to control the deer population.

Parks Victoria has confirmed it will then determine the level of deer control needed to protect the environmentally sensitive areas, and the best combination of techniques to use.

“An ongoing, sustainable, landscape scale deer control action plan will be prepared in line with the recently released Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy,” the Parks Victoria spokeswoman said.