The 2016 National Wild Deer Management Workshop

The 2016 National Wild Deer Management Workshop was held in mid-November with the proceedings published by the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre. The workshop, hosted in Adelaide, brought together people from numerous government agencies responsible for deer management, which also included some that have undertaken wild deer research projects. One glaring omission from the guest list was that no hunting organisations were participating. Hunters certainly have a keen interest in the management of wild deer above and beyond just a hunting resource.

In short, the workshop focused on the future of wild deer in Australia. It identified significant knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to effectively manage emerging wild deer populations. Lead organiser of the workshop, Dr David Forsyth, a research officer for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, said in a statement that workshop participants constantly hear reports of wild deer causing environmental, agricultural and social impacts but unfortunately their understanding of the extent and importance of these was lacking.

One outcome of the workshop was the development of a number of key national wild deer research and innovation priorities under four themes. Those themes included impacts, management tools and systems, monitoring deer distribution and abundance, and community engagement. Dr Forsyth also stated that the management of wild deer was a national problem and that the proceedings of the workshop can be used to assist agencies across the country. Agencies can utilise the proceedings to prioritise funding and resources to achieve a better understanding and as a result help minimise the repercussions of wild deer in Australia.

Six significant gaps in knowledge that the workshop determined to be addressed include:

  • Better information on wild deer impacts is required, particularly on agriculture;
  • Cost-effective and socially acceptable ways to monitor and manage wild deer in Australia are needed;
  • Further develop current and potential tools for controlling wild deer;
  • Better understanding of how recreational hunters can reduce the impacts of wild deer;
  • Develop better tools for monitoring the distribution and abundance of wild deer; and
  • Understanding where wild deer will spread to in the coming decades.

The SSAA did receive a mention in a paper prepared by Parks Victoria in regards to our involvement in the Alpine National Park Deer Control Trial. Ground shooting was discussed mainly in terms of coordinated programs in the paper. This particular scheme included the use of volunteers from the SSAA (and contractors) to help remove as many deer as possible using ground shooting techniques such as stalking, stalking with gundogs and spotlight, on foot or in a vehicle using white light, thermal imaging and/or night vision equipment. For the purposes of the study, data was collected from two sites where areas of targeted deer control would be compared to zones where no control was undertaken (apart from recreational hunting where permitted).

Results from the trial had so far indicated that night operations which use thermal imaging and night vision were the most productive. It certainly makes sense that the use of technologies can assist the efficiency of wildlife management operations. We see this regularly during other SSAA projects where species such as foxes and feral cats are culled.

Hopefully hunter involvement in wild deer management will not only continue but also increase over time. It is important that state governments give us the recognition we deserve, especially when we are part of the solution. The SSAA is a wide-reaching community and we are very willing to support and assist in wildlife management for the greater good.

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