Fallow deer photo by Tony Pizzata
Pic: Tony Pizzata

CSIRO study finds deer are not a major disease threat

A new study from CSIRO has proven that wild deer pose a low risk of transmitting serious virus or parasite pathogens.

The research, entitled A review of viral and parasitic infections in wild deer in Australia with relevance to livestock and human health, published in July this year, has notable implications for biosecurity, and in particular the idea that deer spread dangerous diseases and parasites wherever they go.

The research suggested a low risk of parasitic transmission from wild deer to livestock in Australia, and also suggests hunters play a role in monitoring deer while they are out in the field.

While the research confirmed wild deer can potentially harbour diseases such as Q Fever, the research showed transmission risk to livestock and humans was low – and also highlighted new scientific methods to allow for better monitoring of future pathogens as well.

The findings call into question the necessity of the scale of the current aerial culling operations conducted in various states.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers NSW Upper House MP Robert Borsak praised the CSIRO team and their research, saying they had made an important contribution to agricultural knowledge.

“Their work significantly advances our understanding of wild deer’s role as potential hosts of pathogens, exploring various aspects of deer infections in Australia,” he said.

“The study confirmed that wild deer in eastern Australia exhibit no active Sarcocystis infection, a vector-borne ailment relevant to livestock.”

Mr Borsak was particularly supportive of getting hunters involved in deer monitoring as part of their outdoor activities. 

“This system would equip hunters with knowledge and tools to identify, document lesions, and collect specimens, enabling a cost-effective, community-based, collaborative, citizen science program,” he said.

He also said it was time for the government to update, and ensure the accuracy of, information provided to farmers and landholders about the issue.

“It is essential for New South Wales to make policy decisions that are informed by sound data and peer-reviewed research,” he said. 

“The results of these studies point to the low risk of transmission of viral and parasitic infections from wild deer to livestock and to humans in NSW.  

“This is one less worry for our farmers in these increasingly challenging times.

“This should be taken on board and the government needs to direct the Department of Primary Industries, Local Land Services and the new Biosecurity Commissioner to update, correct and amend current information available in government publications and on its websites as well as the information provided by the DPI and LLS to farmers and landholders.”




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.