Feral Deer Control Kit for the Upper Ovens Valley

Deer Control Methods

Table of Contents

The options for deer control are limited to shooting (aerial and ground shooting) which can be assisted by use of spotlights, thermal imaging, infrared, night vision, noise suppressors, deterrents and trapping (and humanely euthanasing), or exclusion fencing (NFDAP 2023).

Deer management generally requires the use of a combination of methods which will be determined by factors such as property size, location, property use, surrounding land use, topography, existing deer numbers, and available resources.

Management of deer while still in low numbers will reduce costs and contain deer in the long term. Greater numbers of deer will require more ongoing effort, resources, and costs to manage and reduce numbers to target levels.

Additional information on deer control methods is available at websites listed in the Information resources section.

Lethal Control Methods

Ground shooting

Landowner and volunteer recreational shooters

Ground shooting can provide effective control of a small to moderate number of deer but needs to be undertaken regularly and intensively at the start (starting weekly to fortnightly then decreasing or increasing to a point that deer numbers are reduced to the desired level) (NFDAP 2023) (Image 23). Ground shooting is time consuming, labour intensive and requires skilled, experienced shooters (NFDAP 2023).

Recreational hunters may be able to assist but it is important to make clear to hunters what requirements you have for their conduct and behaviour and the objectives you have for your property that you want met. Hunters must also meet legal requirements to hunt on your property controlling-problem-deer-on-private-property .

The Sporting Shooters Association (SSAA) is non-government organisation that promotes shooting sports. It has a farmer assist program which can provide insured SSAA accredited shooters to control deer under conditions applied by the landowner at no fee.  Website: https://www.ssaa.org.au

What equipment will I require?

The equipment required for ground shooting can be expensive including firearms, ammunition, spotlights and night vision or thermal scopes and drones (Image 24) and possibly hunting hounds (Image 10) (NFDAP 2023).

Thermal scopes can be attached to firearms for increased accuracy (NFDAP 2023). Thermal video cameras can be attached to drones or hand held in a car or helicopter to assist with detection and location of deer (NFDAP 2023). Many more animals can be detected with thermal drones than with the naked eye (NFDAP 2023).

There may also be the cost of noise suppressors. Silencers causes less disturbance to neighbours and deer allowing more deer to be shot in one place at one time (NFDAP 2023). There are legal requirements that must be met to use silencers which are outlined in the Legislation section.

Refer to the Game Management Authority information for private land owners available at: controlling-problem-deer-on-private-property and the Legislation section to find about what you are permitted to do when undertaking ground shooting on your property. Additional information sources are also provided in the Information resources section.

Hound hunting

Sambar deer can be hunted with hounds which can help find and flush deer out of hiding. Shooters need to pass the Hound Hunting Test to hunt with hounds to ensure they are aware of legal, ethical and safety requirements (GMA 2023). There are seasons for hunting Sambar deer with hounds on public land and regulations around the number of hounds, hunters and dog breeds that can be used. The The Victorian Hound Hunters Inc website provides information on the breeds of hounds that can be used. Some areas of public land in Victorian are closed to hound hunting so if hounds are used on private property they must not enter these areas. Maps of areas closed to hound hunting are available at: areas-closed-to-all-hound-hunting. Hounds used for hunting must be registered with the Game Management Authority (GMA 2023).

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Image 23. Ground shooting can effectively control small numbers of feral deer if undertaken on a regular ongoing basis (Image source: Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

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Image 24. The use of drones and thermal scopes greatly improve detection of feral deer (Image source: National Feral Deer Action Plan supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

Aerial shooting from a helicopter

Aerial shooting by professional pest controllers provides effective control and the best way to effectively and quickly reduce large numbers of deer over thousands of hectares and particularly for inaccessible areas (NFDAP 2023) (Image 25). High quality thermal detection technology greatly increases effectiveness of aerial shooting (NFDAP 2023).

Aerial shooting is an expensive option which requires skilled shooters and pilots who must follow strict protocols and accreditations (NFDAP 2023). Operational plans must be approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (NFDAP 2023). Detailed planning is required including community engagement and land access agreements from all landholders (NFDAP 2023). This may be an action a group of residents or the community may be able to fund together.

It can also be highly effective to undertake ground shooting on private property at the same time as aerial shooting is being undertaken on neighbouring land. Parks Victoria sometimes undertakes aerial culling on public land which can drive deer onto surrounding properties. Ground shooting can then drive the deer back into the public land so more deer are removed through a collaborative effort. Landowners with property adjoining public land can contact their local Parks Victoria office to find out more information.

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Image 25. Aerial shooting by professional pest controllers provides an effective way to control large numbers of deer (Image source: Sporting Shooters Magazine supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

Commercial harvesting

Recreational shooting for meat or trophies alone will not adequately control deer numbers (NFDAP 2023), professional deer harvesters may be required to reduce large numbers of deer initially.

Commercial harvesting is useful for reducing large numbers of deer until numbers are too low for this to be viable (Image 26). Other options such as professional shooters, landowners or volunteers can then take over the management of lower numbers of deer (NFDAP 2023). Commercial operators must follow Standard Operating Procedures and National Animal Welfare Codes of Practice e.g. Code of Practice for the Effective and Humane Management of Feral and Wild Deer. Some deer harvesters pay landowners a price per kg for the deer harvested on their property. The commercial harvesting resources in the Information Resources section will be updated with details of game harvesters operating in the local area as they become available. Landowners can also contact Wild Game Resources who have a network of registered, professional harvesters that can assist landowners to reduce deer numbers on their property.

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Image 26. Commercial deer harvesting is useful for controlling large deer numbers in a location (Image source: Wild Game Resources Australia supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

Non-lethal control methods

Exclusion fencing (electric or conventional)

Fencing is the most effective non lethal way of controlling deer damage (HWS 2023).

Fencing may be used to exclude deer from small or large areas where shooting or trapping may not be effective or feasible (NFDAP 2023) (Image 27). Fencing can also be used to protect revegetation areas including individual trees or priority crops or pasture paddocks (Image 28 to 29). Fencing can reduce the movement of feral deer in certain areas or direct them into a trap (NFDAP 2023) (Image 33).

Exclusion fencing can be expensive (depending on the area required to be fenced) (NFDAP 2023). Conventional fencing (ringlock) needs to be at least 2 m high and include strong posts and mesh pegged to the ground, strain wires to keep fence taught, and possibly an overhang at the top to prevent deer from pushing under the fence or jumping or pushing over the fence (NFDAP 2023) (Image 30).

Recent developments in electric fencing makes it a cheaper option than conventional fencing and is quicker to install and can be retrospectively fitted to existing standard farm fencing. The latest electric fencing is proving to be a very effective method of excluding deer (Image 31 to 32).

Deer and native herbivores (e.g. wombats) tend to push under conventional fencing and create tunnels which need to be closed off. Tunnelling under electric fencing tends to not be such a problem, the bottom wire needs to be 200 – 300 mm above the ground to prevent this, however electric fencing can short out creating a breach. Both fences types can be breached by falling trees/tree branches or stock. Both types of fencing require high ongoing maintenance to be effective.

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Image 27. Deer exclusion fencing may be necessary protect assets from the impacts of deer (Image source: Australia Deer Association supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

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Image 28. Deer exclusion fencing can be use to protect crops or pasture from deer entering from adjoining bushland (Image source: North East Media supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

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Image 29. Before (left photo) and after (right photo) deer exclusion fencing removal showing deer damage without exclusion fencing (Image source: Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018-2028 website (HWS 2023))

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Image 30. Deer exclusion fencing can be expensive and needs to be built to the right specifications to be effective (Image source: Peter Jacobs)

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Image 31. Example of an electric fence for deer control (Image source: Gallagher fencing)

 

Image 32. Example of an electric fence for deer control (Image source: Gallagher fencing)

 

Removal of water sources

Deer require good access to water. Artificial water sources such as dams increase suitable habitat for deer supporting an increase in their numbers. Fencing off dams and limiting access to water troughs e.g. only fill water troughs when stock are in a paddock, will reduce suitable habitat on a property and assist with reducing deer numbers.

Removal of grazing resources

Mitta Valley Landcare website in 2018 reported that one local property owner found that hard grazing of paddocks within 3 km of bushlines reduced the number of deer entering the property. Another nearby property that was grazed to within 2 km of the bushline still recorded a large number of deer. High stocking rates tend to exclude herbivores including deer as it limits their access to high quality pasture.

Trapping

Deer trapping is being trialled in different states in Australia for use in urban areas where shooting is not possible (NFDAP 2023) or where large numbers of deer congregate in one area (Image 29). It is not regularly used or a preferred method at this stage. The goals is to trap and kill deer in a controlled environment. Traps would range in size from whole paddocks to a several square metres (NFDAP 2023). The options being tested include purpose built or purchased and operated with the use of trap doors which are triggered either remotely (mobile phone), through trip wires or the opening may be a one way ramp (NFDAP 2023). The traps must provide shelter, food and water for trapped deer and must be checked daily (NFDAP 2023). Trapping is likely to be more effective with smaller herding animals such as Fallow Deer as greater numbers may be trapped and shot. A large trapped Sambar deer however can destroy temporary trapping fences.

The use of confinement traps (any trap that confines the whole body of one or more animals e.g. cage, bag, yard, container) is regulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 which specify what type of trap can be used, the conditions of use and where they can be used. Details are available at trapping-pest-animals/confinement-traps and a copy of the regulations is available at: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019. A summary is provided here:

  • A confinement trap can only be used by the landowner or occupier of the land and must minimise harm to the target species and minimise the risk of catching non target species.
  • If sufficient food and water is provided, the trapped animal must not be left trapped for more than 48 hours.
  • In all other cases the trapped animal must not be left trapped for more than 24 hours. The trapped target animal must be humanely destroyed as soon as is reasonably possible.

The use of traps would also require an ACTW, and if trapping in a public place then a public place permit may be required to shoot the feral deer, more information about ATCW and public place permits is provided in the Legislation section.

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Image 33. Deer trapping is a possible option for urban areas where shooting is not an option (Image source: Local Land Services NSW supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

Deer aggregator

Trials are being undertaken for the use of deer aggregators which are feeders to draw deer to a suitable location for ground shooting (NFDAP 2023) (Image 28). This could be useful to attract deer out of inaccessible areas, and peri-urban areas where shooting is difficult or not an option.

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Image 34. Deer aggregators may be an option to attract deer from inaccessible areas or away from peri-urban areas to locations they can be shot (Image source: National Feral Deer Action Plan supplied by Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group)

Deterrents

Deterrents can be used to temporarily reduce deer numbers in an area by reducing a sense of safety. Deer however do become used to many repetitive deterrents. Deterrents include: Noise from gunshots, hunting hounds, bird scaring cannons, human presence. Check with local Council to see if there are restrictions on the use of deterrents such as bird scaring cannons.

There is a trial using movement activated human voices to deter deer in Tasmania and preliminary results look like it may be effective for small areas e.g. gardens, orchards, vineyards to support larger scale shooting.

Small flashing lights are also being used to deter feral deer from crossing roads in high risk areas.

Traffic deterrents have been installed at Harrietville in an effort to reduce vehicle collisions (P. Jacobs pers. comm.).

Vegetation thinning

Some Councils permit thinning of specific plant species such as Burgan without a permit. Thinning dense thickets of these species reduces harbour and can discourage deer. Landowners would need to check with their local Council to see if they need a permit to remove native vegetation before undertaking thinning of species such as Burgan.