Illawarra feral deer cull hits 739 in one year

ROADSIDE DANGER: A young male Rusa deer was shot after it was hit by a car on Mt Keira Rd and was unable to move, in May 2017.
ROADSIDE DANGER: A young male Rusa deer was shot after it was hit by a car on Mt Keira Rd and was unable to move, in May 2017.

The number of deer culled in Illawarra bushland reached 739 in 2017 alone, according to information obtained in Parliament by Member for Keira Ryan Park.

But while this may not appear to have made a significant impact on the deer population in the Illawarra, we don’t know for sure – because deer are a “cryptic animal” and the numbers are still being “analysed”, the government says.

Shooting of pest deer resumed for 2018 in June, once the tender process to find a new deer culling provider under the new Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program was completed, the Government said.

Culling had been suspended in December 2017, as per the usual practice of stopping shooting in bushland over the holiday period.

In Parliament, Mr Park had asked Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole for the information on notice, as he is the Lower House representative of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, who sits in the Legislative Council.

“Deer numbers are difficult to accurately estimate due to the cryptic nature of the animal,” Mr Blair said in his response.

Deer numbers are difficult to accurately estimate due to the cryptic nature of the animal

Primary Industry Minister Niall Blair

“The deer management program uses an ‘Index of abundance’ to monitor population over time. Surveys were conducted in 2012, 2015 and Autumn 2018. The latest data is in the process of being analysed.”

The minister said 739 deer were killed last year, across 50 approved locations.

This would represent an increase in culling, as Wollongong City Council figures showed in 2015 that 1400 had been shot since 2011.

Mr Park also asked when the minister was last briefed on deer by Local Land Services, the body responsible for the deer strategy.

The Minister would not say, replying only that he “receives regular updates on the issue”.

Mr Park said the Government should double deer control resources.

“These numbers show that feral deer continue to be an enormous problem in our region both environmentally and as a safety risk to motorists when they get on to the road network,” he said.

“It’s why Labor has committed to doubling the program that is in place to try and put a real dent in feral deer numbers and to reduce the impact they are doing to the escarpment and residential properties.”