HUNTERS may be brought in to shoot deer which are blamed for having serious environmental impacts on the Mornington Peninsula.
Images of fallow deer were recorded by nine out of 10 cameras installed for four weeks in March at Devilbend Natural Features Reserve, Tuerong.
The cameras were set up following complaints from a vineyard owner who alleged deer had eaten half the crop and become tangled in a vine net.
Parks Victoria is investigating options to control the increasing number of deer, including partnering with the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Victoria and the Australian Deer Association.
Fallow deer – a gregarious herding species – are the type generally found on the peninsula.
In an article written for Landcare, Dunns Creek Landcare member Chantal Kelly said listed “irresponsible” deer hunting among potential problems resulting from deer on the peninsula, which was distressing for residents and users of public land.
Devilbend Foundation member Marnie Fitzsimons said members had found evidence of illegal shooting in the 1000 hectare reserve, including a male alpaca that had been killed and left to rot.
Deer graze and browse in cereal crops, orchards, vineyards, market gardens, pastures and plantations and destroy fences and nets.
“This is having a serious impact on the economic viability of agriculture and forestry at many locations throughout the state,” Kelly wrote in Landcare.
“Even more serious is the potential of deer to transfer disease to livestock.
“Feral deer are transforming the state’s native ecosystems. The impact of more than one million deer on the biodiversity of natural landscapes in Victoria is substantial.
“As well as competing with native animals, degrading waterways and spreading weeds, serious damage is being caused to very sensitive ecosystems such as alpine bogs, rainforest and coastal areas.
“Therefore, the potential to reduce the numbers could be achieved with an effective ground shooting program.”
Kelly said the control programs could take many months to safely establish and would require input from neighbouring property owners, as deer moved easily from one site to the next.
“For a program such as this to be truly successful, in requires local government and local landholders to be supportive, so the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network, together with Mornington Peninsula Shire, are partnering with Parks Victoria to collect any information you can provide on deer behaviour. Details such as times of day, locations, impacts such as damage to fences and crops, via photos.”
Marnie Fitzsimons said volunteers occasionally saw deer at Devilbend, but it was hard to estimate numbers as they were generally nocturnal animals. In small areas volunteers had seen about 20 to 40 deer, but the large reserve is thought to be home to many more.
“Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a family of three cross my path at Devilbend, but it’s so rare to see them in daytime,” Fitzsimons said.
“They are destructive, but I really haven’t seen too much evidence and I really couldn’t give you an accurate number of the deer here.”
Parks Victoria was contacted for comment.