Deer and feral animal control in response to bushfire

Overview 

Following the 2019-20 bushfires, Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are implementing a large-scale, coordinated deer and feral animal control program in parks and reserves across Eastern Victoria and Budj Bim National Park in Western Victoria. Feral horse control is not part of this program.

The aim of this program is to remove deer and feral animals from priority fire-affected and adjacent areas, giving native plants, plant communities and animals the best chance of recovery. 

The 2019-20 bushfires had a devastating impact on native species and large areas of habitat in Victoria.  Under these conditions, deer and feral animals are a significant threat to survival and recovery as they seriously damage native vegetation and important habitat areas through grazing, browsing, trampling and wallowing. 

Coordinated action is required to control deer and feral animals, not just in the burnt areas, but also in the adjacent unburnt areas which provide refuge for native species and harbour for introduced species. 

A variety of tools are used to maximise the effectiveness of Victoria’s animal control programs. Many considerations are given (e.g. humaneness, cost, efficiency) to determine which tools, or control methods, are used for particular animals in particular places. Examples of control methods include:

  • Baiting foxes
  • Trapping cats
  • Baiting and trapping for feral pigs
  • Exclusion fencing to keep deer away from endangered plants
  • Shooting (aerial and ground) for deer and feral pigs
  • Spraying and removal of weeds


This work is funded by the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery program. 

Visit our Conservation and Science page to learn more about how we reduce threats and improve the health of Victoria’s parks.

 

Updates

Read an update about the program from September 2021: Large-scale and long-term action is best for the environment.

Read an update about the program from December 2020: Giving biodiversity a fighting chance.

Read an update about the program from July 2020: Promising signs of wildlife recovery in eastern Victoria

Updates will be shared with the public as the program progresses. 


Ground shooting 

The ground shooting program is mainly targeting deer and pigs, though goats and foxes will also be controlled where they occur.  Targeting a range of species will give threatened plants, plant communities and animals the best chance of recovery following fire.

Please note – ground shooting will mostly be undertaken at night and will have no impact on people's ability to visit parks.


Aerial shooting 

Aerial shooting is an appropriate, effective and humane method of control across large and remote areas which have been burnt and are difficult or unsafe to access by foot. 

The aerial shooting program is targeting deer, feral pigs, feral goats, feral cattle and foxes, to give threatened plants, plant communities and animals the best chance of recovery following fire. 

The aerial shooting program commenced February 2020 as an emergency response operation led by Forest Fire Management (DELWP). Management was handed over to Parks Victoria in June 2020 to continue delivery of the program throughout the fire recovery stage. 

 

Parks included in this program

From October 2021 to June 2022, shooting is planned for the following parks: 


*parts of this park will be closed while aerial shooting is underway 


Please visit the specific park webpages for the latest information about closures and conditions in each park. 

 

Park visitor information

Impacts to visitor access

  • Parks will not be closed for ground shooting, however, there may be other factors impacting visitors’ ability to access parks.  Please visit the specific park pages for the latest information about closures and conditions. 
  • The aim of the program is to reduce deer activity around significant environment values in burnt areas that are vulnerable to deer impacts, including alpine wetlands and rainforests.  These environmental values occur in localised areas where control works will be focused. Therefore, this program will have little impact on people’s ability to go hunting, and limited influence on people’s opportunity to shoot deer.  Deer numbers in eastern Victoria are at such a level now that eradication is not possible using currently available control tools. 
  • While aerial shooting is underway, people nearby may see helicopters and hear gunshots.
  • Deer carcasses will be left where they fall. Shooters will avoid shooting animals in wetlands or waterways or close to walking and/or vehicle tracks.  If this is not possible carcasses will be broken up and moved.  In areas where they have no impact on visual amenity or water quality, deer carcasses will be left where they fall.

 

Safety and ethics 

  • The program will be carried out under strict conditions designed to ensure safe, effective, and humane practices are implemented.  Suitably qualified and experienced contractors will be engaged to deliver the work.   
  • At the start of the program, every effort is made to advise all key stakeholders including neighbours, Licensed Tour Operators and school groups of Parks Victoria’s intent to undertake deer control and the proposed locations. 
  • Advisory signs will be placed in parks to inform visitors that deer control work is being carried out in the area.  These are installed at the start of the program and removed at the end.  
  • Parks Victoria staff and contractors are ensuring all activities comply with requirements regarding hygiene and physical distancing, to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 
  • All contractors undertaking deer control, whether ground or aerial shooting, are instructed to act according to all relevant legislation, Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures designed to ensure that high standards of animal welfare are observed during operations. 
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