Mt Buller News

Network takes aim at deer issue

- BY LAURIE SULLIVAN lsullivan@ nemedia.com.au

CONSERVATI­VELY estimated at ‘more than a million’, feral deer population­s have become one of the most serious environmen­tal and agricultur­al threats in Victoria - arguably greater than feral pigs or brumbies, the other major invasive species now rampant in the state’s Alpine regions, according to Eurobin’s Peter Jacobs.

Mr Jacobs is the man charged with bringing together community groups, organisati­ons and individual­s already combating the deer menace under the newly-formed Victorian Deer Control Community Network.

Based in the Alpine Shire, the network has been establishe­d to provide a platform for its members to collaborat­e with government department­s and agencies in tackling the growing problem.

A 300kg deer can crash down fences and demolish gardens, pastures, crops, vines and orchards, as well as being a danger to motorists when they sprint across rural roads at night.

“From a biodiversi­ty perspectiv­e one of the biggest concerns is that deer are increasing­ly getting up into the high country,” Mr Jacobs said.

“They used to be confined to the foothills, but are now trampling Alpine peatlands and wallowing in bogs which are very important for the water quality of streams and rivers.”

On the fringes of villages like Bright and Harrietvil­le, which border national parks, some residents have erected large deer-proof fences or are resorting to electric barriers to try to deter the hungry deer roaming the streets at night, while others have given up the fight - and their gardens.

Baiting deer is not allowed in Victoria and aerial shooting has only been effective in burnt out areas, where they can be seen, while shooting from ground level is largely ineffectiv­e.

“Deer are so entrenched in the forest country around here it’s really about protecting assets and trying to push their numbers down,” Mr Jacobs admits.

“Eradicatio­n is a long way off but there needs to be a concerted effort to help property owners to deal with the impact of deer.

“It will need a long-term investment and there are limited options, but something has to be done.”

The Victorian Government has allocated $18 million for feral deer control over the next four years, and to develop control plans.

President of the Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group, Mr Jacobs says the group has had to resort to 1.2m high tree guards to protect plantings because the deer decimate them.

“We’re now having to put extension on those guards because the deer are still chewing the tops off them at 1.2m high,” he said.

“It adds a lot more cost to the guards but it also means we are going to have to resort to more expensive fencing.

“Whatever way you look at it, deer are a big problem and it will take big money to respond to it.”

Mr Jacobs recently engaged Charles Sturt University academic Dr Allan Curtis to conduct a survey on the economic impact of deer on properties in the Ovens Valley.

“There hasn’t been a decent study into the cost of deer to a local economy let alone the environmen­t,” Mr Jacobs said.

“The survey will examine the costs of deer on property owners, whether it’s what they are spending on fencing, crop losses, car damage from collisions - whatever it is.”

Along with government department­s, disparate groups and individual­s have been grappling with the feral deer problem.

However, until the advent of the network there has been little opportunit­y for collaborat­ion and co-ordination of ideas and initiative­s, or opportunit­ies to learn from each other’s experience­s.

“The vision is that a healthy and respectful collaborat­ion of community, interest groups, institutio­ns and government will bring about a substantia­l reduction in the impact of feral deer on the community, environmen­t and the economy,” Mr Jacobs said.

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FRONT LINES: Eurobin’s Peter Jacobs is leading the fight against the feral deer menace plaguing the state.
grown deer numbers have A PEST: Sambar years. significan­tly in recent FRONT LINES: Eurobin’s Peter Jacobs is leading the fight against the feral deer menace plaguing the state.
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