We don’t often consider something as timid or shy to be considered a pest. Usually, a “pest” is affiliated with rats, pigeons or the cane toad. But this unlikely animal’s numbers have grown so rapidly landholders and residents are calling for them to be officially considered a pest.
The number of deer in Australia, particularly New South Wales has shot up by 60 percent since 2009 after the Invasive Species Council surveyed the animal's population in 2016. The groups’ purpose is to assess potential threats to Australia from invasive species. According to local residents deer are becoming such a problem they damage sensitive rainforest and put human lives at risk on roads and railways.
Tim Francis owner of a 100- acre property at Foxground in the Illawarra region says the deer are destroying his Landcare conservation property.
It's not just foraging for food but marking their territory and also working the velvet off their antlers, ringbarking trees and stripping their bark.
“Lots of trees in the past few years have been destroyed by deer. It's a big cost, and it's also devastating emotionally to be seeing the damage that's done.”
Francis explains that despite his best efforts- tree guards and barbed wire fencing the deer are still getting through and wreaking havoc on his land. He believes because they stand so high at a metre and a half they can very easily clear the barbed fences.
Andrew Cox, the CEO of the Invasive Species Council, sees deer as the most important emerging pest species in Australia, he believes they will rival goats, pigs and rabbits.
Initially, deer were introduced in the 1880s for recreational hunting, and in New South Wales are considered the game animal, so can be shot by licensed hunters. These restrictions do not apply to other feral animals such as dogs or pigs.
Image: Deer, Wikimedia Commons
Deer have been officially recognised by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries as a threat to production, community and environment.
Allowing the animal to be hunted as game, however, is seen by many as a short term solution to a larger problem.
Other states have good policies where they declare deer as pests, but they are often not backed by the resources to nip those small populations in the bud.
The mayor of Wollongong, Gordon Bradbury believes the deer are having a severe impact on the wetlands, causing soil erosion.
We want it moved from being a game species into a pest species and dealt with accordingly; it's a statewide problem, it isn't isolated to Wollongong.
Nine people have been killed in car crashes involving deer over a seven year period and 30 train collisions in the last 12 months.
The government has spent over one million dollars on a fence to stop the deer wandering on the tracks, but so far their efforts appear to be futile.
Header: Illawarra region, New South Wales, Wikimedia Commons