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Feral deer

Feral deer are a widespread and destructive agricultural pest that cause significant environmental and financial damage. Feral deer are a declared pest animal in WA, SA, NT, ACT and Queensland.

To ensure a coordinated approach to deer control, MLA’s investment in this area is largely through its support of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS).

PestSmart which is powered by the CISS, provides information about feral deer relating to their biology, ecology, impacts and best practice management.

Fast facts

  • There are six species of feral deer in Australia: Fallow, Red or Wapiti, Hog, Chital, Axis or Spotted deer, Timor or Rusa, and Sambar. Fallow deer are the most widespread.
  • All states and territories have at least one species of feral deer present.
  • In some states (NSW, Victoria and Tasmania), deer are classified as a ‘game species’ and considered a valued hunting resource. NSW recently changed its regulations to remove some of that protection – deer will now be treated as a pest animal on private land.

Impact of feral deer in Australia

Feral deer can affect livestock enterprises as they:

  • compete for pasture with grazing animals
  • damage farm infrastructure and the environment
  • can be potential carriers of livestock diseases, such as foot and mouth.

New research projects are underway to assess the full extent of these issues and their impacts on livestock producers through loss of productivity, rise in production costs and increased biosecurity risk.

Control methods

In late 2016, the CISS hosted a national workshop on deer management.

The workshop spawned Australia’s first large-scale collaboration to tackle the escalating threat of feral deer. Participants included five state and territory governments, three local councils, three universities and three private environmental groups.

The five-year, $8.7 million research collaboration started in 2018 and is focused on four projects nationally:

The research projects listed above are in progress and over the coming years, the results will be used to develop toolkits for deer control. These toolkits will outline:

  • best practice deer management techniques
  • new tools for integrated pest control and monitoring (including wild dogs and potentially foxes).

In the meantime, ground shooting is considered the most effective technique for reducing feral deer populations. Download PestSmart’s Standard Operating Procedure: Ground shooting of feral deer for more details.

Producers and the broader community are encouraged to record both new and historical observations of deer via the DeerScan app or website.

Use DeerScan to map sightings, report problems or damage caused by deer, and document control actions. This will help build a detailed picture of deer populations and keep neighbours as well as local biosecurity authorities up-to-date on current deer problems.