Deer hysteria is ‘largely unwarranted’

Ken Slee, Maffra


GIPPSLANDERS in recent months have been deluged with reports of the “feral deer menace” and the apocalypse that will result from the ongoing “explosion” in deer numbers.

Reality has been thrown out the window as various pundits and groups have promoted their agendas, based largely on hysteria.

Two items (Gippsland Times 6/11) are symptomatic of this growing disconnect from reality.

In that newspaper issue Greens candidate for Eastern Victoria Tom Cummings states that “more than one million deer are running rampant across Victoria”.

As no formal count of deer has ever been conducted in Victoria, it is clear that “one million” is selected as a nice round number that sounds really scary, impressive and authoritative.

Despite being widely repeated, this number is almost certainly a wild exaggeration.

Then, embedded in a report of a deer cull in the Alpine National Park, is a quote from the Victorian National Parks Association estimating that the Victorian deer population is growing at a rate of 300,000 a year.

This too, is an assertion based on nothing other than the speculated one million deer all breeding successfully, while presumably ignoring the 100,000 deer shot each year by recreational hunters and the limits imposed on numbers by food availability.

It too, is a wild exaggeration.

Deer numbers increased after the major bushfires of the past 15 years because of the short-lived increase in food availability.

They are now falling away in many areas as hunting takes its toll and as the feed in the bush reduces because of the maturing of the forest understory and the effects of drought.

Despite the likelihood that deer numbers will fall away in future years, they will need to be managed to minimise their impacts in key areas.

However, they need to be managed based on facts, and not hysteria.

Recreational hunting and culling by farmers and their agents will provide most of the deer control required, with other measures adopted on public land where recreational hunting is inappropriate or is failing to achieve the outcomes needed.