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Tasmanian government lost in the woods as deer wreak havoc

A feral deer buck in Tasmania (Invasive Species Council / Faye Beswick)

CERVINE pests are destroying the environment, farms, Aboriginal heritage and the economy due to the authorities’ inaction on the Apple Isle.

The claim in a new report issued by The Invasive Species Council accompanied a warning that a million feral deer could be running amok over 54 per cent of Tasmania by 2050.

A projected increase in numbers of 11.5 per cent annually from the 100,000 deer currently invading 27 per cent of the state today,

Report author Peter Jacobs urged premier Peter Gutwein to take the environmental and economic emergency seriously.

“It’s clear from my research that the current deer management strategy in Tasmania is putting farmers and land managers on a collision course with these highly destructive feral animals,” Mr Jacobs said.

“If the government doesn’t alter course, the losers will be the Tasmanian environment, tourism, community and the economy.”

The expert said feral deer could soon be costing even more than the estimated $100 million hit to the economy they cause every year.

“We can expect feral deer to spread deeper into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, creating grave environmental impacts and harming Tasmania’s international tourism reputation,” he said.

Christine Milne of the Bob Brown Foundation, which commissioned the report, said the out-of-control spread of deer in Tasmania is an ecological time bomb.

“Just because the Tasmanian government wants to pretend we remain a far-flung outpost of the Empire and copy the recreational trophy hunting habits of the 19th-century British aristocracy doesn’t mean we should sacrifice our environment and farming community,” Ms Milne said.

The former federal Greens leader accused the state government of sleeping on the job and said it is time for a major shift on deer control policy.

“We call on Premier Gutwein and [Primary Industries and Resources] Minister [Guy] Barnett to remove feral deer’s protected status and to adopt world’s best practice and a 21st-century biosecurity approach to the management of feral deer in Tasmania,” she said.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association CEO John McKew said although his group wasn’t consulted during research for the new report, it is ready to be a proactive and responsible part of the solution.

He said a recent survey of 240 TFGA members ahead of early September talks with the state government revealed feral deer are considered the number six wildlife pest problem for Tasmanian pastoralists, behind different species of wallabies, possums, cockatoos and feral cats.

Nonetheless, Mr McKew said the invasion of feral deer is a crucial issue causing significant impact.

That’s in the context of the broader pest problem facing Tasmanian farmers, which costs them over $10 million a year in lost income and productivity and environmental damage.

“Deer don’t discriminate between a natural forest and farmland,” he said.

“They will run and cause problems across all of these areas.

“Their numbers are not diminishing, they’re growing, and their impact on our members is also growing.

“But deer are not the only problem we have.”

The Invasive Species Council report recommends reducing Tasmania’s deer population to 10,000 by 2032.

It also proposes 28 concrete points of action to stop the damage feral deer are doing to the state’s natural, societal and agricultural jewels.

Those points include a petition to the Tasmanian government to allocate $1.65 million annually until 2025 towards deer management, alongside $150,000 every year from the federal government.

“If the Tasmanian government fails to heed this wake-up call, rocketing feral deer numbers will take an increasingly heavy toll on the Tasmanian economy and the emotional welfare of farmers,” Mr Jacobs said.

Graphic: Invasive Species Council
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Cameron Doody

Cameron holds a doctorate in Studies of the Ancient World from the Autonomous and Complutense Universities of Madrid. He has 4.5 years' experience as a reporter in Spain and 3.5 years' experience as a lecturer in Ethics. Writing from Gawler in South Australia, in Kaurna country, he is passionate about advocating for a more humane economy, digital and workers' rights, freedom of expression, sustainability and multiculturalism. In his spare time he enjoys unwinding with friends and family, playing the piano and helping to make the world a better place.

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