Deer culling has cost Wollongong council $320,000 over the past four years, but the program has failed to make in dint in the city's problematic ruminant population.
A lively debate at Monday night's council meeting revealed that just 1400 of the pests have been shot through the culling program since 2011, meaning a single deer death costs ratepayers nearly $230.
Speaking as councillors voted to adopt a new "vertebrate pest management policy", Greens councillor George Takacs said it was clear the deer population on the escarpment was spiralling out of control.
For instance, Cr Takacs, who works at the University of Wollongong, said he had spoken to university maintenance staff who had recently captured more than 100 deer traversing residential Robsons Road early one morning.
He said deer were "an underrated environmental and social problem", and had caused "devastating damage" to undergrowth and mature trees in parts of the Illawarra escarpment. This increased the risk of mud slides and reduced the effectiveness of the region's flood basins, he said, and also made the forests more prone to bushfires by drying them out.
The council's annual $80,000 contribution to the deer culling program is due to end in June 2016.
Cr Takacs said he planned to raise a motion before council in the coming months to call on greater state and federal government support, as he was worried the population could double.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he would support such efforts, noting the council's existing program was "very expensive, in terms of its impact".
A revelation from environment strategy and planning manager, David Green, that the program was "limited in effectiveness" due to safety constraints about where shooting can take place, left councillors baying for blood during a comical debate.
"Why don't we shoot more deer?" Labor's Janice Kershaw said, while Cr Bradbery remarked "Bang, bang, shoot 'em up".
Likewise, Bede Crasnich said he wanted to encourage recreational hunters and "point out that having a shotgun and licence in this state is perfectly legal".
"We obviously have an issue with feral cats, feral pigs and deer and I'm all for getting people to cull their numbers," he said. "Native wildlife in our escarpment is worth protecting."
Independent councillor Vicki Curran wanted to make sure the program was killing deer at the same rate they were born.
"How many baby deer, how many Bambis, are born and how many are we killing?" she asked.
Laughing, Cr Bradbery said "you can't shoot Bambi", while Ann Martin remarked that it would "depend how much sex [the deer] were having".
"Anecdotally, we are seeing more deer in the area, so numbers are increasing ... but what the proportion or exponential factor is isn't something I would be able to advise you on," Mr Green said.
Previous council documents reveal there were about 5000 deer thought to be living in the Illawarra escarpment.