The Tasmanian Government has proposed three zones to prevent the ongoing spread of wild fallow deer into new parts of the state, but there are concerns that the plan could limit their removal from several national parks.
The government has released its draft wild fallow deer management plan, which outlines one zone in central and eastern Tasmania as the "traditional area" for deer, but relaxes regulations surrounding their harvesting and culling in surrounding zones.
The second zone includes areas where they have spread in recent decades, where the aim is to "manage down" their numbers through reduced property-based exclusions on taking immature males, as well as stags during 'the rut'.
The third zone is the remainder of the state where deer are yet to significantly spread, with a "no deer" management strategy. This involves eradicating new incursions in a "strategic and prioritised manner", including removing the exclusion on anterless deer in the zone from November 16 to March 14.
The draft plan details the potential use of technological or chemical tools, as well as baiting. The government could also consider the use of helicopters as part of controlled culls based on improvements in thermal imaging technology.
The use of helicopters for culling has been strongly opposed by hunting groups in the past, including the Tasmanian Deer Advisory Committee, which sees the practice as indiscriminate and inhumane.
The government's draft plan retains the use of property-based hunter groups as the predominant way of controlling numbers.
READ MORE: Falls Festival will not return to Tasmania
Deer status as partly-protected was retained.
The second zone includes the Ben Lomond and Douglas-Aspley national parks, raising concerns from the Invasive Species Council that they could not be eradicated from these areas under the plan.
Invasive Species Council deer project officer Peter Jacobs said the plan had little consideration of conservation goals.
"[It] sets no biosecurity or conservation goals, targets or timeframes for reducing climbing numbers of deer, and fails on the funding front for controlling destructive feral deer," he said.
The government estimated that deer numbers are increasing by 6.2 per cent each year based on long-term spotlight surveys, but a University of Tasmania paper found they had increased 11.5 per cent per year for 35 years.
Their numbers were estimated at 54,000 following an aerial survey in 2019, but UTAS ecologist Professor Chris Johnson believed this was a significant underestimate.
The government issued 6000 fallow deer licenses during the 2021 deer season.
READ MORE: Tributes flow for arts stalwart Annie Greig
The draft plan outlined the impact they could have on environmental values.
"Deer browsing can have significant impacts on native ecosystem structure," it reads.
"Browsing by high density deer populations promotes a more open and less biodiverse understorey, leading to the conversion of forests to open grassy woodland communities."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.