The Greens have welcomed a push to reclassify deer as a pest species, a move which would make it easier to cull them in numbers around the Illawarra Escarpment.
It comes after a new report found deer were the “most important emerging pest animal threat”, and tougher measures were needed against pest animals.
This included tougher controls on cat ownership and feral horses.
The NSW Natural Resources Commission’s report found deer had caused nine fatalities and about 100 collisions with trains in the Illawarra. The commission recommended deer be declared a pest species.
Wollongong Councillor George Takacs called the deer “the greatest long-term threat to our escarpment forest”.
“People who are familiar with particular areas of the escarpment can go up there and see the damage that has happened, particularly over the past 15 year, it has become more pronounced,” he said.
“I fully support the recommendations to declare deer a pest species rather than a game species.
“But what we need to do now is make sure we resource land management agencies like the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Local Land Services, so that they can fund appropriate population programs.”
Cr Takacs said removing the game classification would ease restrictions on how landowners, and professional shooters, could deal with deer.
In particular, the use of silencers, and controls over what vehicles deer could be shot from, would be eased.
“The rules are such as to stop shooters from shooting too many,” he said.
“The professional shooters who were hired by the local land services to conduct the Northern Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program had pointed out that when it’s a game species there are a whole lot of restraints that restrict your ability to actually cull the deer.”
Invasive Species Council chief executive Andrew Cox said it was now up to the NSW Government to fully implement the commission’s recommendations.
“Until now the NSW Government has been unwilling to act decisively on the growing threats of expanding populations of feral deer,” he said.
“Feral animals such as foxes, cats, deer carp and pigs are the silent killers of NSW wildlife.”
The NSW Farmers association has also supported many of the commission’s recommendations, including that there be a “tenure neutral” approach – pest control measures can be the same regardless of whether land is private, state forest or national park.
The report is open for public comment until May 18.