Barry Howlett, executive officer of the Australian Deer Association, says it is a knee jerk and superficial response to call for deer to be declared pests to combat their growing numbers in some parts of Victoria. In this excellent article published in The Weekly Times, Howlett says that the Greens are attracted to this option because it fits in with their ideological opposition to hunting and shooting.
The Australian Deer Association believes there are more balanced responses to the increased deer population.
In a move hailed by the Victorian Farmers Federation as a “welcome, commonsense approach” and by the Australian Deer Association as “sensible, workable and timely”, former agriculture minister Peter Walsh moved in 2013 to declare deer as “unprotected” on private land.
This order allows landowners to manage deer on their land as they see fit.
It cannot be assumed that such a free-for-all approach applied to public land would prove workable or viable. Once declared a pest, like rabbits or foxes, deer can no longer be hunted as freely on public land.
There is a fallacy that the current “game” status of deer in Victoria is somehow responsible for their current upsurge in this state. The truth is that game regulations allow deer (other than hog deer) to be legally hunted 365 days a year with no bag limit.
There are 30,000 licensed deer hunters in Victoria. Collectively we harvest more than 50,000 wild deer a year and contribute clean, safe and delicious free-range meat for our families.
We also play a critical role in deer control and habitat restoration projects.
In the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges, volunteer deer hunters work with Parks Victoria to remove hundreds of deer from small reserves in semi-urban areas.
Perversely, for a party that often claims the proverbial high ground on animal welfare issues, the Greens favour the expensive and often inhumane use of poison to control problem deer over shooting by skilled volunteers.
Australia is the world’s second largest (behind New Zealand) user of 1080 poison. In contrast to shooting (which is, by law, targeted to ensure a controlled, swift and humane loss of consciousness and death), the use of poisons such as 1080 and cyanide on large vertebrates often result in slow, agonising deaths and in the “incidental” killing of other animals.
In August last year Parks Victoria hosted a deer-control workshop attended by biologists, ecologists, land managers, hunters and anti-exotic campaigners. All of those present, despite their diverse backgrounds, agreed on the urgent need for research on deer population dynamics, behaviour, habitat use, impacts and the efficacy of control.
Wild deer need well thought out, practical management.
Victoria’s hunters do not claim to hold all the answers to the challenges posed by the increase in the deer population. However, we do offer a practical, affordable and humane solution alternative to the rhetoric of The Greens, which appears to be driven more by their ideological assumptions and their need to pander to their inner suburban supporters than out of any sincere desire to play a productive role in the conversation about wild deer management in Victoria.
Wild deer such as these fallow deer need well thought out and practical management solutions not knee-jerk, superficial reactions from the anti-hunting Greens, says Barry Howlett from the Australian Deer Association.