Feral deer cannot be eradicated from Gippsland but can be managed via a coordinated approach involving all land managers and recreational and professional hunters. There is also the opportunity to turn a pest into a resource by developing robust demand and supply chains for wild-caught Gippsland venison.
These were the key messages that emerged from the Gippsland Deer Forum hosted by South Gippsland Landcare Network (SGLN), the South Gippsland Shire Council, the Victorian Deer Community Control Network (VDCCN) and the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) last week. Held at Meeniyan, the Forum explored the current control options and framework to manage the growing problem of feral deer which is estimated will cost the Victorian economy up to $2.1 billion over the next 30 years if the current population growth and spread continues.
The sixty people who attended the Forum were a diverse mix of farmers, lifestylers and recreational and professional hunters. Responding to concerns about the economic and environmental damage caused by feral deer, participants also included five South Gippsland Shire Councillors, one Baw Baw Shire Councillor and state MP, Danny O’Brien.
A highlight of the Forum was the case study presented by a founding member of the Cape Liptrap Community Deer Control Group, Cheryl Batagol. Cheryl shared the Group’s journey from realising the extent of the feral deer problem to developing a strategic plan and more recently, working with a commercial harvester. She also described the strong sense of community arising from the Group’s efforts which were celebrated at a Deerhunters’ Ball held at Tarwin Lower last week. Ninety people, including recreational hunters assisting the Group, attended the Ball which raised $15,000, much of which will be used for future deer control.
There was also significant interest in the discussion, led by Dominic Britten of Gippsland Wild Foods, about developing a market for wild-caught Gippsland venison. Valued highly in many other countries such as New Zealand, venison is a low-fat meat that is currently under-utilised in Australia. Stimulating demand for the product could create employment and lead to large numbers of deer being removed from the region. The was general agreement that feral deer control needs dedicated funding to have facilitators in the regions assisting landowners and the community to work together, alongside public land managers, on raising awareness and developing solutions for their areas.
SGLN will be uploading a series of short videos made with each of the Forum’s speakers in the next couple of weeks. You can obtain more information about deer control by contacting email@example.com (SGLN). Peter Jacobs (VDCCN) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michelle Hanslow (DEECA) at email@example.com.