Feral deer on the doorstep of towns and suburbs

News article |

The significant impacts that feral deer have on the natural environment and agriculture have been well documented in recent years, but the spread of these pests into the outskirts of towns and suburbs across the Hills and Fleurieu has caught many residents by surprise.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu continues to work with private landholders and a number of partners to tackle this issue. Feral deer populations are much more difficult to control the closer they get to suburban areas and townships, so efforts in many areas in the Mount Lofty Ranges are focussed on feral deer populations that pose the biggest threat to urban invasion and spread.

A recent aerial operation conducted in the Mount Bold Reservoir Reserve, Scott Creek Conservation Park and adjoining private land, removed almost 250 feral deer from the area. These numbers are lower than last year’s operation – a sign that while we are slowly addressing the issue, there are still plenty out there.

Tom Kloeden, Regional Coordinator, Grazing Pressure Management at Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu explained why this area is a particular focus for the program.

“While this area feels quite rural, it is actually very close to significant townships and just up the hill from Adelaide’s southen suburbs. This population of feral deer is a priority to control and prevent their spread. The further these animals move toward these peri-urban areas, the harder they are to control. As well as the impacts to the environment, primary production, and even gardens we are also faced with the increased risk of vehicle collision.

“The Mount Bold operation was undertaken over five days with 28 hours of helicopter flying time. About 245 feral deer were removed, down from 375 in this area last year. Since November 2022, over 900 fallow deer and more than 70 feral goats have been removed from the area, so to see declining numbers each year is good news. We are also very pleased to report that no feral goats were detected this time, so we are hoping local eradication has been achieved in this area – a great result.

“Our deer control work in this area also includes a ground shooting program undertaken by professional shooters. This program aims to address the feral deer issue in areas unsuitable for aerial shooting, and supports landholders to undertake safe and effective deer control on their land.

“Feral deer damage native vegetation, putting stress on sensitive ecosystems and threatened species. From an agricultural perspective, they break fences, destroy crops, and cause significant erosion issues. They also pose a biosecurity risk.

“We have put significant work into reducing numbers across the region, in line with the state eradication strategy and our regional pest strategy. We couldn’t have the same impact without the support of the other organisations, volunteers and private landholders involved. We have many landholders who participate in our programs, this helps us cover more area and means the landholder is meeting their legal obligations to control feral deer, a declared pest, on their properties.

“We encourage the public to report sightings of feral deer and feral goats at feralscan.org.au. This gives us useful information to help plan future operations and direct our efforts to the right locations.

“It is literally now or never for eradicating feral deer in the region. We have a short window of opportunity before population numbers explode to levels that cannot be contained, so these operations are very important,” said Mr Kloeden.

The Regional Grazing Pressure Management program is led by Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu 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 feral goats and deer, which are declared pests under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019.

Hear Tom speaking about peri-urban deer on ABC 891 Afternoons program with Leigh Radford

Hear Tom speaking about this operation on Around SA (5MU) with Chris Guscott

Feral deer on the doorstep of towns and suburbs

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