NON-professional deer hunters have been recruited by Parks Victoria to shoot deer at Devilbend Natural Features Reserve, near Moorooduc.
Sections of the reserve are being closed to the public from 4pm to 6am while the hunt proceeds over the next month.
Parks Victoria says its monitoring program had shown that the number of deer on the Mornington Peninsula had “increased rapidly” over the past two years.
Acting area chief ranger Nick Jansen said the culling of fallow deer at Devilbend had been “stepped up … in a bid to eradicate them before their population increases and causes significant damage”.
“We’ve partnered with the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia and the Australian Deer Association to deliver a targeted shooting operation which is taking place this winter,” Jansen said.
“Partnerships like this are so important in ensuring we’re doing everything we can to protect and preserve the health of the reserve and its important role in providing a network of green space on the Mornington Peninsula.
“Deer can cause serious damage to native plants and animals by trampling and destroying vegetation, increasing grazing pressure, ring-barking young trees, fouling water edges, causing soil erosion and spreading weeds.”
Signs at Devilbend state that Parks Victoria intends to “reduce the population of deer” at the reserve with “coordinated ground shooting operations” with the four-week program scheduled to start this month (June).
Fallow deer, the targets of the hunt, were the first species of deer to become established in Australia after being “successfully” released at Westbrook and Warwick on the Darling Downs, Queensland between 1870 and 1872.
Parks Victoria will also be targeting foxes and cats at Devilbend and other reserves on the peninsula between June and September.
The Devilbend reserve is credited with supporting more than 200 species of native flora and 195 indigenous species of fauna, including many threatened species.
The state government has allocated $18.25 million over four years to the Victorian Deer Control Program plus $4.4 million ongoing. An extra $1 million was included to support deer control in peri-urban Melbourne. Details: environment.vic.gov.au/invasive-plants-and-animals/deer-control-program/deer-control-strategy