LETTER TO THE EDITOR
THE front page article headed 'Deer pest animals - Call for controls' demands a response.
The article used emotive language to support the Victorian National Parks Association's contention that wild deer should have their status changed from 'game' to 'pest' in the Victorian government's Deer Management Strategy currently under development.
It also incorrectly stated that Victoria was the only mainland Australian state to class deer as 'game'.
In reality, deer are still declared game in New South Wales, and are also managed as game in Tasmania, so three of six Australian states currently classify deer as game, and Victoria is not the outlier portrayed.
The assertion that there are a million deer in Victoria and that numbers are still growing cannot be supported by evidence.
There has never been a count of Victoria's deer, so that this number cannot be substantiated.
It is a number dreamt-up to be large and scary, but it has no basis in reality and undoubtedly overestimates the population several-fold.
In the absence of any count, the contention that deer numbers are still increasing likewise cannot be supported, and it really isn't known whether the population is still growing, is stable or is declining.
The Victorian National Parks Association's contention that deer consume a million tons of vegetation annually at present is also kite-flying based on the assumed one million deer.
It is pure speculation and is undoubtedly wrong.
With regard to the author's contention that deer are "ravaging" farmland in Victoria, it is likely that the vast majority of the state's farmers are more concerned about drought, commodity prices, shire rates, wildfire and water availability than deer.
While deer are occasionally involved in traffic accidents, these incidents remain uncommon, and whether they are currently increasing as stated is debatable.
The great majority of significant vehicle and wildlife impacts across Victoria are still being caused by native species, predominantly kangaroos and wombats.
All of these 'facts' are presented to demonstrate that deer in Victoria should have their status changed from 'game' to 'pest'.
However, this change would have no impact on deer numbers in this state.
Three deer species (Sambar, Fallow and Red Deer) are effectively given pest status on farmland in Victoria already, and can be shot without restriction by landowners or their agents.
Victoria's 41,000 licensed recreational hunters currently shoot more than 100,000 deer each year, mostly on public land, at no cost to government, and this harvest would not increase significantly if their status was changed to pest.
If deer are to be better managed in Victoria, the Victorian government's Deer Management Strategy needs to recognise, support and encourage the role of recreational hunters, properly fund the Victorian Game Management Authority and remove the many constraints that currently restrict access to public land for hunting, so that the number of deer harvested is maximised.
Pest status is not a required part of that mix.