About the program

In Victoria, deer are impacting our state's biodiversity, water quality, public safety, agriculture, and Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The Victorian Deer Control Program (the Program) aims to minimise the impact of deer in Victoria.

The Program includes the Victorian Deer Control Strategy (the Strategy) and 3 regional deer control plans.

The Strategy was released in 2020 as the first step toward providing a clear and coordinated approach to deer control in Victoria.

Within the strategy is the Deer Control Framework, which guides a coordinated, strategic and adaptive approach to managing the impacts of deer.

3 regional deer control plans will address the state’s deer control response under the Strategy. These include peri-urban east, and west deer control plans.

It is anticipated the Program will contribute 150,000 hectares annually to the contributing targets in Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2037.

In the 2020-21 State Budget, the Victorian Government allocated $18.25 million over four years and $4.4 million ongoing to support the on-ground delivery of the Strategy.

Deer Control Program Q&A

General

The Deer Control Program aims to reduce the impact of wild deer on biodiversity, water quality, public safety, agricultural assets, and Aboriginal cultural heritage. To achieve these key objectives, we are working and supporting key stakeholders to help undertake an integrated deer control program.

The Deer Control Program is being delivered statewide and includes the Peri-urban, East and West Plans. Priority areas will be identified by the matrix within each of the plans. Activities will be delivered in national parks, state parks, state forests and key private land adjacent to priority public land.

There are 3 plans as it was intended to complete the Peri-urban plan and then use this as a template to complete others. As the state is a very large area and the general topography in the east was different to the west it seemed logical to separate the rest of the state into two parts.

The Plans were prepared in consultation with regional partnership groups made up of local partners and stakeholders involved and interested in managing deer impacts, including land managers, local government, conservation, industry, community groups and Traditional Owners.

The Plans will help partnership group members and the community develop local approaches to deer control. Individual landholders can also use the Plan to guide cost-effective deer control and to contribute to monitoring where appropriate.

Deer cause significant environmental damage through spreading weeds, grazing, tree rubbing, trampling and forming wallows in drainage lines resulting in soil erosion and compaction. This can increase pressure on native wildlife, threatened species and plant communities that are vulnerable.

Sambar deer are listed as a potentially threatening process under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, by reducing the biodiversity of native vegetation.

Deer are herbivores and create grazing pressure within different ecosystems that affect a wide range of native wildlife.

The program is ongoing. There has been $1 million allocated to works in the Peri-urban areas as well as $18.25 million over the next 4 years to be spent across the state. Funding of $4.4 million will be ongoing after the initial 4 years of funding.

Sections of national parks and state forests may occasionally be closed while shooting is taking place. For on-ground activities such as ground shooting, advisory signs will be placed at major access points. The general public, key stakeholders and neighbouring landholders will be notified in advance of deer control activities where required.

Relevant Traditional Owner groups in the different regions have been engaged in the planning and delivery of activities under the Deer Control Program. The level of involvement in activities is determined by the interest and capacity of the Traditional Owners.

Several Traditional Owner groups will be involved in the on-ground delivery of deer control. This includes Moogji Aboriginal Council, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Taungurung Land and Waters Council and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation.

The safety of the general public and staff is a key priority of this program.

Staff and contractors delivering the deer control activities are highly skilled and experienced and work to strict operational guidelines and health and safety requirements. Risk assessments are completed for all activities to ensure health and safety risks are appropriately managed.

The public and neighbouring landholders will be notified in advance of deer control activities, including park and forest closures. Signage will be installed for some control activities, along vehicle tracks and a park or forest entrances. The general public is unlikely to see deer control activities being delivered.

All staff and contractors delivering deer control activities are appropriately authorised, skilled and experienced and must comply with all relevant legislation, Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures designed to ensure animals are controlled as humanely as possible. Animal welfare is a key consideration in the development and delivery of the Deer Control Program.

Private landholders will be able to use the prioritisation matrix in the Plans to help determine priority areas for controls.

Organisations such as Trust for Nature, Landcare and Catch Management Authorities will work with private landholders to deliver deer controls through grants.

The Deer Control Program may engage with private landholders where priority areas of private land are adjacent to control on public land are being undertaken to achieve landscape-scale controls.

Private landholders adjacent to targeted areas of deer control on public land will be notified of control activities where required.

The Victorian Deer Control Program is led by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and delivered in partnership with Parks Victoria, local governments, Traditional Owners, Catchment Management Authorities, Trust for Nature, and others.

Recreational hunting

Recreational hunting alone has not been proven effective in preventing deer population growth or range expansion.

Accredited volunteer shooters are not generally deployed to achieve rapid knockdowns in deer populations as this can be more effectively implemented using specialist contract shooting teams.

Skilled, authorised and accredited volunteers from the Australian Deer Association and Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia may have the opportunity to be engaged in the longer-term ground program for sustained deer control.

Recreational deer hunting in Victoria is permitted in specified areas of public land and on private land where landholder permission is obtained.

Deer hunting opportunities will continue to be available in Victoria, in line with public health measures, as eradication across broad landscapes is not a feasible goal.

Temporary closures of sections of parks allow operations to be conducted safely.

More information on alternative hunting areas is available on the Game Management Authority website and the More To Explore mobile phone app.

The ‘game’ classification of deer under the Wildlife Act 1975 does not prevent their control when they are causing damage to the environment or property. The National Parks Act 1975 sets out the obligation to manage introduced species in national parks, including deer.

Deer control programs have been and continue to be undertaken by public land managers such as DELWP, Parks Victoria, local government and Melbourne Water, under authorisation issued under the Wildlife Act.

Deer (except Hog Deer) are also unprotected on private land, enabling landowners to control deer as necessary.

Deer numbers in Victoria are at such a level now that eradication is not possible.

The aim of the Deer Control Program is to reduce deer numbers sufficiently for native animals, plants and ecosystems in priority areas to recover.

Deer hunting opportunities will still be available, and the Victorian Deer Control Program is unlikely to significantly impact a recreational hunter’s opportunity to shoot a deer.

Commercial harvesting meat will be undertaken by certified operators where possible. In many remote areas, it is not a viable option due to safety issues, lack of ground access to some control areas, and it would compromise the ability to achieve the objectives of the program.

Adult Sambar deer weigh between 100kg-350kg. Many of the deer shot is likely to be in remote areas away from walking and vehicle tracks and to remove and/or move them would be unsafe and impractical.

Standard practice is to leave the deer carcass where it falls, as it would be if the deer had died by natural causes. Carcasses may be removed in circumstances where leaving the carcass where it falls poses a health or safety risk.

Aerial and ground shooting

There are four known species of deer in Victoria. Of these four species, the Victorian Deer Control Program will target Sambar, Fallow and Red Deer for aerial shooting.

Aerial shooting can be used to deliver deer control over large areas and inaccessible terrain.

It is an effective method of intensive introduced large herbivore control that is in use in most Australian states and territories.

Aerial shooting is the most practical control method at this time when large areas need to be covered and ground access is affected.

Parks Victoria has undertaken aerial shooting of deer, feral pigs and feral goats in several Victorian national parks, where it has been proven to be highly efficient and able to rapidly remove feral animals in targeted areas over short periods of time.

Aerial shooting is a highly efficient and effective feral animal control tool, particularly in areas where ground access may be limited. It is also the most effective method for broad, landscape-scale control in remote locations or difficult terrain.

Parks Victoria has undertaken aerial shooting of deer, feral pigs and feral goats in several Victorian national parks, where it has been proven to be highly efficient and able to rapidly remove feral animals in targeted areas over short periods of time.

All participants delivering deer control activities are appropriately authorised, skilled and experienced and must comply with all relevant legislation, Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures designed to ensure animals are killed humanely.

Shooters are trained to only shoot in situations where they can achieve an immediate humane death. Shooters involved in the aerial shooting operation are audited by an independent veterinarian to ensure that animals are being controlled humanely.

Ground shooting is an effective method of humanely controlling feral animals when undertaken by appropriately trained and experienced professional shooters.

Ground shooting helps maintain pressure on target animal populations in important habitat areas and complements large-scale aerial shooting.

There are four known species of deer in Victoria. Of these four species, the Victorian Deer Control Program will target Sambar, Fallow and Red deer for ground shooting.

When targeting deer with dependant young, the young will be shot first, to avoid orphaning.

If a lactating female is accidentally shot first, every effort will be made to find dependent young and kill them quickly and humanely.

Commercial harvesting will be used where possible.

In areas where commercial harvesting is not viable, standard practice is to leave a carcass where it falls, as it would be if the animal had died by natural causes.

Carcasses may be removed in circumstances where leaving the carcass where it falls poses a health or safety risk.

Many of the animals controlled are likely to be in remote areas away from walking and vehicle tracks and to remove and/or move them would be unsafe and impractical.

Target animals will not be controlled near waterways, walking tracks or public roads.

Evidence suggests that wild dogs are specialist hunters and prefer freshly killed food.

Wild dogs are unlikely to be attracted by carcasses and there will be little effect on wild dog numbers or distribution.

Carcasses from deer control activities are also unlikely to be a regular and reliable enough food source to sustain ongoing population growth.

The safety of the general public and staff is a key priority of this program.

Highly experienced and accredited shooters are used to deliver aerial and ground shooting activities and work to strict safety standards.

All aerial shooting will be undertaken in priority areas, including national parks and state forests, which is temporarily fully/partially closed to the public.

No aerial shooting will occur within 300 metres of private land and roads open to the public.

The general public and neighbouring landholders will be notified of aerial and ground shooting activities in advance, including park and forest closures.

Domestic animals and livestock will not be targeted during the aerial and ground shooting activities.

Shooters will be targeting deer and will only shoot if there’s complete certainty that the target animal is a deer.

Exclusion fencing

Exclusion fences protect specific species or high-value habitat areas from damage by large herbivores, such as trampling, grazing, ringbarking and wallowing.

The areas being targeted for protection by exclusion fences provide refuge to important threatened native plant and animal species.

Fences are designed to allow the movement of native animals through the fenced areas.

Clearance between the ground and bottom wires allow movement under the fences.

Barbed wire will not be used in the construction of exclusion fences.

Posts and stays will be placed to avoid threats to native animals.

There will be no outward-facing stays on fences, to prevent injury to animals moving around the outside perimeter.

A top white sight wire may be installed to minimise large herbivore impacts.

Page last updated: 26/03/22