Venison won't control growing fallow deer population in Tasmania: Invasive Species Council

Regulation of wild fallow deer as a meat source in Tasmania would not help to curb the spiralling population but create another barrier to controlling numbers.

The warning from the Invasive Species Council emerged last week as the government is in the midst of a Legislative Council inquiry into the matter.

Invasive Species Council chief executive Andrew Cox said it was time the government declared fallow deer a pest in Tasmania.

“A feral deer meat industry would have to protect its resource, and could end up fighting any moves to lower deer numbers,” Mr Cox said.

“It might also encourage landholders to build up feral deer numbers, leading to further damage of the natural environment and property.”

The Legislative Council inquiry, that began earlier in the year, has been collecting submissions and is expected to hold consultation sessions in October. It is chaired by MLC Robert Armstrong.

The inquiry came about after a report was released by University of Tasmania researchers Ted Lefroy, Christopher Johnson and David Bowman. The report suggested the wild fallow deer population in Tasmania would increase by 40 per cent in the next decade and increase from 25,000 to more than a million.

“Feral deer are not a snack for consumers, they’re a pest and should be officially listed as a pest species and controlled like other pests,” Mr Cox said.

​Mr Cox said Tasmania’s current policy ignored the listing of the animal as a pest in other states, such as WA and Queensland. 

“We have to stop other deer species coming into Tasmania, and we have a responsibility to contain the damage to farms and the environment being caused by fallow deer.”

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust also issued a warning about the potential commercial use of fallow deer.

"The first priority must be for government to declare deer a pest species. We then need scientists to confirm whether or not feral deer can be eradicated entirely or, if not, how to prevent their spread and lower their numbers in the most sensitive areas," Tasmanian Conservation Trust’s Peter McGlone said.

"If we decide to eradicate fallow deer then it would be nice to avoid unnecessary waste of venison meat.

“However, commercial use is a major concern as it creates the need for ongoing supply of meat and this would mean giving up on the goal of eradication."

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