Protecting Victoria’s environment, farms and cultural heritage

Deer stuck in the mud

While deer were introduced in Victoria around 150 years ago, there has been a recent and significant jump in numbers, with deer spreading to new parts of the state. As their population increases, so too does the damage they do to Victoria’s environment, farming and Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. They also pose a danger on Victorian roads, including those in some outer Melbourne suburbs.

To address these challenges, we have developed Victoria’s first Deer Control Strategy.

According to Executive Director Biodiversity James Todd, given deer are found throughout Victoria, control needs to target areas where it can have the most impact. 'I think most people would be surprised to learn that deer control is one of the best, most cost-effective ways to protect threatened species in Victoria,' James said.

That is where the new strategy comes in.

Deer hooves have a devastating impact on fragile environments and Victoria’s biodiversity. 'Australia’s environment isn’t adapted to hard hooved animals like deer,' he said.

'As a result, they do a lot of damage by creating tracks, causing soil erosion around streams and rivers, and creating mud pits where the males like to wallow. This impacts on fragile ecosystems and waterways.

'Their trampling and browsing can also severely damage sensitive rainforests and alpine areas, including the habitat of already endangered or threatened wildlife.'

Deer are an issue for farmers, destroying crops and grazing on vineyards. They also carry pathogens like parasites that can contaminate drinking water reservoirs.

'These are large animals causing new problems as they spread into urban environments,' James said. 'They’re unpredictable and can be aggressive towards people as well as causing road accidents.'

Completely eliminating deer from Victoria isn’t possible with current available control methods. The strategy will coordinate deer control efforts. It aims to reduce the impact they have on farming, the environment, Aboriginal cultural heritage and road safety. It will also:

  • Limit the spread of deer
  • Remove them from isolated areas where possible
  • Prevent new deer populations from appearing in the environment.

James said regional deer control plans will be developed. 'Several land managers and groups are doing deer control already, but we need to coordinate these efforts, so the most important locations are targeted, and communities and the environment get the greatest benefit from that work.'

Deer have also spread to some outer Melbourne’s suburbs, including the Dandenong Ranges, Warrandyte and Yarra Valley. The strategy includes actions to address the difficulties in controlling deer in these urban areas.

'Working with relevant partners across the state will be vital to the strategy’s success.'