New rules to control feral deer numbers

News release
01 May 2019

Feral buck

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Landholders are reminded that they are now required to destroy all species of feral deer on their properties.

New rules also require all farmed deer to have a visible ear tag.

With feral deer numbers on the rise, the previous policy has been revised to reduce the impact of the animals on the environment, agricultural industries and public safety.

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges (AMLR) has received reports in recent months of feral deer damaging vines and horticultural crops.

Invasive species and compliance coordinator Susan Ivory said escaped deer could cause significant damage.

“Deer eat native plants, pasture and crops and damage fences,” she said.

“While their preferred food is grass, they also eat the leaves of shrubs and trees, herbs, bark and some fruit.

“They can trample, graze and ring-bark native vegetation, damage and graze agricultural crops, foul waterholes, damage fences, erode soil in areas of high use and threaten native fauna by damaging habitat.

“Feral deer can pose a road safety risk and can attract illegal hunters.”

Most of the feral deer in the Natural Resources AMLR region are fallow deer. An aerial control program in early 2017 resulted in the removal of 255 fallow deer after community concerns were raised about their impact.

Feral deer have been found throughout the Mt Lofty Ranges, the Adelaide Hills and parts of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and their numbers are known to be increasing.

“There are two primary issues to be aware of in the new policy – all feral deer must be destroyed and all farmed deer over the age of 12 months must have a visible ear tag,” Ms Ivory said.

“We want to give deer farmers sufficient time to comply with the new ear tagging requirements so we will be writing to them to outline the transition arrangements. It is recommended that those deer farmers who don’t handle their deer regularly start planning now to make sure they can get their deer safely tagged.”

Fences encompassing a deer farm are required to be audited every two years. Natural Resources AMLR will be adding the verification of ear tags into the audit process.

Ms Ivory said that because feral deer were reclusive it was possible for landowners to be unaware of the extent of their numbers until environmental damage or broken fences were discovered.

“The previous policy prohibited the release of deer but did not require all feral deer to be destroyed by landholders,” she said.

“With the focus now on destroying all deer, rather than just controlling feral deer, the region has a real opportunity to bring the numbers of feral deer down.

“We urge landholders who don’t have the capacity to shoot deer on their properties to call one of our district offices for advice.

“We also strongly recommend working with your neighbours, as a coordinated control program is definitely the most effective.”

About deer in the region

Fallow deer are similar in size to a large domestic goat and can weigh between 50kg and 110kg. Bucks can be close to one metre tall at the shoulder. The most common coat colours are fawn or black, with large white spots. There are also distinctive white markings on the tail and buttocks. Mature males have multi- pointed antlers.

Red deer are larger, at between 95kg and 160kg, with bucks standing up to 1.2 metres at the shoulder. They have a red-brown coat with a lighter underbelly and the antlers are U-shaped and multi-pointed.

More information

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges