Under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 (the Act), deer are declared for control and the Act includes separate declarations for domestic (farmed) and feral deer.
Feral Deer are deer that are not kept in captivity. Feral deer, in particular fallow and red deer are located throughout the Limestone Coast, and their numbers are known to be increasing.
The South Australian Deer policy aims to reduce the environmental, economic, and social impacts of feral deer through the ongoing reduction of the number of feral deer on all properties and in all sub-populations. The Act aims to prevent the illegal release of deer and to ensure boundary fences of deer farms meet construction and maintenance standards so farmed deer do not escape.
Invasiveness and spread
Subpopulations of several special of feral deer have spread across mainland South Australia.
These deer include chital deer (Axis axis), hog deer (Axis porcinus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), rusa deer (Cervus timoriensis), sambar (Cervus unicolor) and fallow deer (Dama dama). The numbers of feral deer that have been culled since 2006 have been inadequate to stop populations spreading.
Deer are reclusive animals and it is not unusual for a landowner to have significant numbers grazing on or moving through their property without being fully aware of them, or their impact on crops, pasture and native vegetation.
Apart from sightings of animals, the biggest indicator that there are feral deer on a property is the presence of tracks or damage to fencing.
Deer can range quite widely and are creatures of habit that tend to move along defined pathways. Over time these develop into well-worn tracks, indicating the presence of feral deer.
Impacts of Feral Deer
- Changes to bushland through trampling, grazing and ring-barking vegetation
- Soil erosion and compaction in areas of high use such as trails, pastures and creek lines
- Weed dispersal
- Fouling of waterholes
- Spread of plant diseases
- Disturbing native fauna by destroying habitat including vulnerable species breeding such as trampling mallee fowl nesting sites
- Destruction of native revegetation sites and seedlings.
- Attracting illegal hunters on private and public properties
- Causing traffic hazards
- Public safety
- Destruction of gardens and recreational parks.
- Competition with stock for pasture & crops
- Spread of disease
- Ring-barking trees and destroying saplings, particularly during the rut
- Trampling and grazing of agricultural crops
- Destruction of vineyards
- Soil compaction
- Damage to fences.
- Reservoir for exotic diseases such as foot and mouth and rinderpest if these were to enter Australia.
What is my responsibility as a landholder?
Under the Act, deer are declared for control with separate declarations for domestic (farmed) and feral deer.
Domestic deer are livestock, which must be registered with PIRSA under a Property Identification Code. Further information on Domestic Deer in South Australia can be found on the PIRSA website.
Early Detection & Monitoring
Any sightings of feral deer should be reported to the Limestone Coast Landscape Board where landowners can also obtain advice about control measures. Early detection is an important control measure in its own right.
It is also recommended that any sightings of feral deer be reported to www.feralscan.org.au to ensure all feral deer activity is mapped in the region.
Keeping records of the number of deer that are sighted and controlled on your property will provide very useful information on population sizes, distribution trends, deer density and effects of control programs. This information is also of benefit to the region in designing control programs into the future.
Landholders are responsible for eradicating all feral deer on their properties under the Act, in South Australia feral deer cannot be moved, sold, kept or released.
The best management technique for all deer species is to prevent their escape from deer farms into the natural environment or adjoining properties to ensure they do not supplement feral deer populations.
Under the Act domestic (farmed) deer must be secured or confined within a property by effective deer proof fencing.
Any escaped tagged domestic (farmed) deer should be reported to the nearest regional Limestone Coast Landscape Board office.
Deer farmers MUST immediately report any escaped domestic (farmed) deer to the Limestone Coast Landscape Board through the below options;
Fencing standards are in place to not only ensure boundary fences are constructed, but also properly maintained to prevent escape of deer. It is the legal responsibility of the landowner to ensure that farmed deer are contained.
Authorised Officers of the Limestone Coast Landscape Board regularly inspect deer farm fences and are authorised to instruct deer farmers to maintain or repair boundary fences.
Further information about the deer farm fencing requirements and standards can be found at www.pir.sa.gov.au.
As with any pest species, feral deer do not respect property boundaries. Effective management on one property may be undermined by deer wandering in from adjoining properties. For this reason managing feral deer is best achieved as a joint exercise, involving all land managers in the local area.
Eradication of Feral Deer
Landholders are responsible for eradicate all feral deer on their properties under the Act
There is no single approach to deer control and any program should be designed after proper consideration of local circumstances. It is recommended you contact the Limestone Coast Landscape Board for advice regarding the eradication of feral deer on your property by calling your nearest regional office.
Feral deer control techniques are available on the PestSmart Connect website.
You can also consider other options to help remove feral deer on your property by contacting:
- Your neighbours to work together
- Farmer Assist / Sporting Shooter programs
- Local hunters
- Shooting contractors
- Commercial harvesters.
Escaped Domestic Deer on your property
As a landholder if you see escaped domestic deer on your property, you should immediately report any escaped domestic (farmed) to the Limestone Coast Landscape Board through the below options;
As per the steps in the above forms, If known, contact the deer farmer to alert them of escaped deer on their property.
Deer with a visible ear tag fitted can not be destroyed for 7 days, or a shorter period if instructed by a Limestone Coast Landscape Board Authorised Officer if the deer keeper has a history of deer escapes.
Once notified, the deer keeper has 7 days to recapture the deer, after which the deer will be classified as feral deer, which must be destroyed by the landholder.
Reporting Feral Deer Sightings
Image Courtesy of FeralScan
Did you know DeerScan is a free resource for the general public, farmers, local councils, community groups, pest controllers and biosecurity organisations. You can use DeerScan to record feral deer sightings, report feral deer impacts, and document control action.
Information you enter can alert local biosecurity authorities and your community about feral deer activity, and can help to protect domestic and native wildlife from feral deer activity.
If you are undertaking control, you can use it to document where you are baiting or setting traps for foxes. People are using DeerScan to work together to coordinate control.
Visit DeerScan for more information