Deer

Photo of four deer standing in a field with trees behind them

Advice and support

In Nillumbik, deer are increasing in population and extent. This large introduced animal causes a lot of damage: destroying native vegetation, agriculture and gardens. They are also a major hazard on roads.

If we work together, we can control deer, protecting our precious biodiversity and vital agricultural production. 

Council employs a Land Management Officer. They can give you specific advice on how to manage deer on your property or how to work with your neighbours to control deer in the local area.

Council may also be able to provide support through the Land Management Incentive Program.

Call 9433 3111 or email environment@nillumbik.vic.gov.au

 

Identification and monitoring of deer and their impacts

Deer, whether they be described as feral or wild, are a species that were introduced to Australia by the Acclimatisation Society back in the 1800s for hunting. Further deer have been released into the environment since then, assisted by escapes and releases from deer farms. Deer species currently occupy around 37% of Victoria.

Whilst currently protected under the Wildlife Act as a Game species, they are unprotected on private land where they are causing damage to plants and property. 

Deer compete with our native fauna and with farmed stock for feed, they modify habitat, can spread diseases and pathogens and weed seeds, they alter water quality, can cause erosion and compaction of soils, altering nutrient cycling, and may also change plant communities through selective browsing.

In September 2020, Nillumbik Shire Council presented Introduction to Deer, a webinar covering the deer species in Nillumbik, where they are found, their impacts, the legislative framework around deer, responsibilities for management, control options, and community approaches to managing deer together.

Impacts of deer

Environmental damage

Deer are causing significant damage to native vegetation and waterways in Nillumbik. 

The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 lists Sambar deer as a threatening process to the biodiversity of native vegetation.  This listing is supported by the experience of local ecologists in Nillumbik who are very concerned about the ecological impact of Sambar deer and other deer species found locally. 

In many areas of the shire, deer are:

  • Over-browsing and causing the destruction of ground and mid-storey vegetation. This is significantly reducing the presence of native flora species, including several threatened species; and is reducing the habitat of ground-dwelling animals like dunnarts, and limiting feed options for many other fauna.
  • Destroying saplings and seriously damaging tree health by rubbing against tree trunks. 
  • Damaging waterways with their hard hooves and wallowing, which is causing erosion and reducing water quality. 

A mini-documentary prepared by the Middle Yarra Landcare Network shows the damage done to local environments by deer.

Watch the documentary

Agricultural damage

Rural landowners in Nillumbik are reporting that deer are increasingly causing damage to their vineyards, orchards and rural grazing livelihoods.

They are reporting impacts such as water spoilage, erosion, damage to fences, tree crops, vines and shelterbelts and an increasing struggle to achieve good pasture via rotational grazing. 

ABC Landline has also covered the topic of deer, mainly in relation to farms and national parks. Watch the full 15 minute segment here

Public safety

Deer represent a public safety risk where they are found crossing roads. They are large quick-moving animals and can cause significant damage to vehicles when involved in collisions.

Identifying and monitoring deer and impacts

Nillumbik has three deer species – Sambar, Red and Fallow – all of which look a little different, but leave similar signs of their presence, and have the same damaging impacts.

Below are some resources and videos on identification, monitoring and how to record deer sightings, damage and control using DeerScan.

 

Deer management and control

Deer can be controlled and managed, especially if we all work together.

Current options to reduce deer impacts in home gardens, farms and bushland include:

  • Fencing
  • Restricting access to water
  • Harbour management
  • Deterrents
  • Shooting (removal)

There are special requirements for the control of deer in peri-urban areas which mean that volunteer controllers/recreational hunters are not always allowed to work in these areas. Make sure that you have read the information below, and understand how to find out whether a Public Place Permit is needed on your property.

General information on options to manage and control deer can be found in this Deer Management Factsheet(PDF, 1MB)

Council has seen overwhelming support for deer control and management, and this is reflected in the results of community survey about deer in Nillumbik that was run between February 2020 and July 2021. View a summary of the survey responses(PDF, 2MB)

Deer control (ground-based shooting)

These resources detail the main considerations for deer control, including the special requirements for shooting in peri-urban areas. We’ve also created some tips on things for you to consider when you’re thinking about engaging someone to help control deer and/or deer damage on your property. 

The following templates may also be of assistance to you, or your Deer Action Group. These tools have been developed to make it easier for you to record what you have planned with your deer controller, and to record your neighbours’ contact details so that you can keep them informed. You can modify the templates to suit your specific property needs, as they are intended as a guide only.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvements.

If you are ready to start your deer control project, a list of fencing contractors and deer controllers (both professionals and volunteers) is available in the Community Deer Directory.

Is shooting allowed on my property?

Some areas of Nillumbik are regarded as ‘public’ or ‘populous’ places by Victoria Police.  They include some obvious locations like schools and sports fields, but also private properties in areas where houses are in close proximity to each other.  If a property is deemed to be a ‘public place’ then carriage or use of a firearm in that location requires a Public Place Permit. You can read more about these on the Victoria Police website

It is not always easy to identify Public Places, and Permits are generally only available to professional deer controllers (e.g. licensed pest controllers). So to be sure you aren’t breaking any laws it is recommended that you contact the local District Firearms Officer (dfo-nd5-diamond-creek-oic@police.vic.gov.au or 9438 8347) to have a chat and perhaps arrange for them to conduct a site visit.

If you do not require a Public Place Permit, you could consider contacting one of the volunteer organisations who may be able to recommend one of their experienced hunters to assist you with deer control. Some of their members are likely to also be listed in the Nillumbik Community Deer Directory

Managing deer remains on your property

If you are unable to have deer harvested commercially on your property, but have too many deer for your own personal consumption, what can you do?

Burial is one solution, if you have the space.  Make sure that this is done in accordance with standards: Animal Health Australia Disposal Manual

The waste disposal centre in Wollert accepts animal materials (putrescible waste) and has infrastructure to manage long-term containment issues, however there will be charges that apply to disposal.

You may be concerned that leaving deer carcasses around might cause bad smells and attract foxes or wild dogs. The Arthur Rylah Institute conducted a study in 2012 to monitor scavenging of Sambar carcasses in north-east Victoria, and found that whilst deer carcasses were sometimes fed on, they did not provide a source of food that is relied upon by the foxes or wild dogs, and the carcasses broke down very quickly.  In peri-urban areas, leaving a deer carcass in situ could be accompanied by a complementary fox control program for an integrated pest management approach.

Check out this fascinating video showing how quickly a deer can decompose.

Fencing and integrated pest management solutions

There are a number of non-lethal management techniques which may assist you in reducing damage caused by deer, including harbour management, restricting access to water and fencing. Benefits of these management actions are enhanced when integrated with a coordinated shooting program.

The factsheets below outline some of the easiest methods you can try at home. Please be aware that exclusion fencing may require a Permit from Council. Be sure to discuss your plans with a Council Planning Officer before you proceed.

Working collaboratively for best results

If you are considering control of deer on your property, it is likely that your neighbours are experiencing the same issues, and will be keen to work with you to tackle the problem. Working with several of your neighbours, or with other landholders in your area, will result in better outcomes for deer control and management – you will have a larger area to work across, and can implement some of the integrated actions together. 

If you’re a Nillumbik resident wanting to work collaboratively with your neighbours to control deer in your local area please contact the environment team at Council. We can assist you with an initial property assessment to determine suitability for works and estimate the level of deer presence on your site.  Groups of landholders may also be eligible for financial assistance through Council.

 

 

Community Deer Directory

Graphic image of a deer outline

The Community Deer Directory is a free online directory designed to assist landowners with finding local professional businesses or volunteers that offer deer management services in Nillumbik.

The Directory may include fencing contractors, ecologists, land management consultants, drone / helicopter surveyors, hunting groups, pest management controllers, organisations and networks - anyone with an interest in managing and controlling deer.

Listing in the Deer Directory is open to any experienced individual or organisation that is supportive of the Council’s goal to reduce the impact, numbers and distribution of deer in Nillumbik. Our aim is to reduce deer populations close to Melbourne, and assist landholders with protecting their environmental and agricultural assets.

Nillumbik Shire Council has developed a list of recommended attributes and experience for those listed on the Directory and developed some Best Practice Guidelines for deer controllers and landholders, including safety, notifications, working with Victoria Police and carcass management. These recommendations and Guidelines can be found in the following documents:

Launch the Community Deer Directory

 

Projects and events

Past grant-funded projects

From time to time, Council receives grants which enable officers to deliver special projects.  Recently this has included the Sugarloaf Link Project, Kangaroo Ground Deer Control, and the Collaborative Community Deer Action project. 

Sugarloaf Link Project

The Sugarloaf Link Project commenced in 2019. It was a three year project, funded by a Biodiversity Response Planning grant from the State Government (DELWP) trialling the control of deer in peri-urban areas, around Bend of Islands, Watsons Creek and Christmas Hills. The project sought to reduce deer numbers to help protect the biodiversity of the habitat corridor between Kinglake and the Yarra River. Landowners that lived within the project boundary were eligible to apply for free deer control. This project successfully removed more than 330 deer (307 Sambar and 23 Red Deer) between November 2019 and August 2021. The Kangaroo Ground Deer Control program ran during 2020-21 and removed an additional 62 Sambar deer. Find out more about the Sugarloaf Link project

Collaborative Community Deer Action

The Collaborative Community Deer Action in Nillumbik project was funded by two one-year grants from the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Communities Environment Program, and delivered a series of online and in person events to raise awareness of deer and provide information about deer control and management options.

Recorded webinars from this project:

 

Contacts, external strategies and tools