Sambar hunting

Wild deer not as abundant in Victoria as previously thought

Recreational hunters are making a difference to Victoria’s feral deer population, according to the latest results of Victorian Government-supported research.

The Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research has just published a study entitled Abundance of deer in Victoria: Regional and statewide estimates of deer density and their impact on vegetation, one of the primary aims of which was to “design and implement a statewide monitoring program to estimate the abundance of the four deer species in Victoria (sambar, fallow, red and hog), and report the resulting abundance estimates at statewide and regional scales”.

The project was carried out across all 74,570 square kilometres of public land in Victoria between September 2021 and May 2023, with 253 camera locations for the majority of areas and an additional 64 sites in South Gipplsand and Wilsons Promontory to target hog deer, for a total 317 camera locations.

Collectively, the cameras recorded 191,153 deer; the majority were sambar (123,061) with fallow deer (48,932) the second most numerous, trailed by red deer (12,682) and hog deer (4,243).

Direct detection of deer was achieved by 148 of the 317 cameras, with 186 cameras recording deer signs. 

Unsurprisingly, deer tended to be found in greater density closer to pastoral land – especially fallow and red deer. 

It’s well established the majority — around 60% — of deer are harvested on public land, and the Australian Deer Association (ADA) states around 37% of the state’s public land deer are harvested annually by recreational hunters.

More than 123,000 deer were harvested last year, according to the Game Management Authority of Victoria; so there is no doubt there would be considerably more feral deer in the state, causing significant environmental damage, without the efforts of recreational hunters.

The ADA has welcomed the research release, saying it represented the first estimates of statewide and regional abundance of wild deer in the state.

The ADA noted, “it provides valuable information to enable a maturing conversation of wild deer and their management to be grounded in facts and data, not rhetoric and fear-mongering by out-of-touch lobby groups.”

“Wild deer management often must deal with the challenge of out-of-touch lobby groups that fear-monger and attack recreational hunters from the suburbs and regions instead of being pragmatic and evidence-based,” an ADA statement said.




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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.