Hills invasive animal control is a win for native species

News article |

The control of invasive herbivores across our landscape is helping to support our native plants and animals.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu and partners undertake several aerial control operations each year to manage invasive herbivores. A successful aerial shooting operation was undertaken in the Adelaide Hills in June, removing 375 fallow deer and 12 feral goats from SA Water’s Mount Bold Reservoir Reserve, Scott Creek Conservation Park, adjoining ForestrySA land, and private properties.

The operation was undertaken as federal and state governments named South Australia as leading the nation in removing feral deer, with the 10-year South Australian Feral Deer Eradication Program aiming to eradicate the pest from the state by 2032. There were an estimated 40,000 feral deer estimated in South Australia in 2022, having a devastating effect on the natural environment and costing primary producers an estimated $36M in direct productivity losses annually. Since the program’s commencement in May 2022, over 8,000 feral deer have been removed. Almost half of these from the Hills and Fleurieu region.

“Grazing pressure from invasive herbivores such as feral deer and goats can have substantial impacts on primary production, water catchments, and native plants and animals. The damage these invasive animals do to the landscape, and the subsequent effects that has on native species can be substantial,” said Tom Kloeden, Regional Coordinator for Grazing Pressure Management at Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu.

“Mount Bold Reservoir and Scott Creek Conservation Park have particularly high conservation value, providing habitat for threatened species such as the Endangered chestnut-rumped heathwren, southern brown bandicoot, and several species of orchid. All of these species can be impacted by feral deer and goats.

“In partnership with public land managers, private landholders and community groups, we were able to conduct the five-day aerial operation, across almost 6,000 hectares, using 25 hours of helicopter flight time. We have now removed over 650 fallow deer and over 70 feral goats from that part of the region in the past 12 months.

“Removing these invasive animals obviously reduces their impact on the landscape and native species, but also limits their continual reproduction and distribution. With feral goat populations increasing at up to 65-70 percent each year, and invasive deer at around 30 percent, it’s important that these operations are done efficiently and at landscape scale. Without intervention, numbers will explode beyond manageable levels very quickly, putting irreversible stress on our landscapes and native species.

“Invasive deer species are established across much of the region. The approach to deer management is to reduce high-density deer populations, and to contain or eradicate isolated populations where possible, supporting the long-term goals of the SA Feral Deer Eradication Program.

“The program also has the objective of eradicating all known invasive goat populations within the Hills and Fleurieu region. To find only 12 animals in this operation is a positive indication that we are very close to removing the population in that area and achieving a local eradication target.

“As always, we encourage landholders and the general public to report any sightings of feral goats and deer at www.feralscan.org.au. This will trigger an alert to our team and help us understand where sub-populations are residing and how to best plan our programs.

“Many methods have been used over the years to manage invasive species, and our approach through this program is working to restore some balance in favour of native species. We have an opportunity here to take action, and the alternative could be costly for both the environment and primary production. We’re on the right track, but need to be persistent to keep numbers at a manageable level,” said Mr Kloeden.

“This is a great example of land managers and the community working together to achieve a positive outcome for the local environment. Thanks to SA Water, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, ForestrySA, the Friends of Scott Creek Conservation Park and neighbouring landholders for supporting this operation.

You can find out more about Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu’s Regional Grazing Pressure Management program and access useful resources, updates and links here.

The Regional Grazing Pressure Management program is funded through the Landscape Levy and is being delivered in partnership with the Department for Environment and Water’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, Green Adelaide, ForestrySA, SA Water, and private landholders, to control invasive goats and deer, which are declared pests under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019.

The South Australian Feral Deer Eradication Program is a statewide partnership between the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA), the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), landscape boards and Livestock SA and is jointly funded by both the State and Australian Governments.

Hills invasive animal control is a win for native species
Grazing pressure from invasive deer and goats can have substantial impacts on primary production, water catchments, native vegetation and threatened flora and fauna. Above: a young blue gum thrashed by feral deer. Credit: Clinton Garrett

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