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Tasmania’s wild deer population is on the rise. Are their growing numbers a concern?

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Tasmania’s wild deer population is on the rise. Are their growing numbers a concern?

At the western edge of Connorville, one of Tasmania’s oldest and largest farms, the terrain rises sharply into the World Heritage area of the Great Western Tiers.

Key points:

  • Tasmania’s wild deer population is estimated to increase by 5 per cent each year
  • The Tasmanian authorities will release a draft yarn into the future management of wild deer later this year
  • Farmers imagine extending the recreational deer searching season will assist control the population

On the property’s plains near Cressy, in the state’s northern midlands, extra than 20,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle graze.

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Nevertheless the livestock are now having to compete for space and food with an increasing quantity of wild fallow deer.

“We certainly have a deer concern here at Connorville, and at the back of Cressy and the Western Tiers,” said Roderic O’Connor, the property’s latest custodian.

“We’re discovering mobs of 3, 4, 500 [deer] aggregating at certain instances in the early evening or morning.

“It’s been relatively high the last three years particularly, we have now been culling way over normal numbers,” he said.

He said the deer eat almost the same amount as his sheep, and damage fencing, native vegetation and tree regrowth.

A man sits on a tree stump in a paddock looking into the distance.

Increasing deer numbers are a burden on Roderic O’Connor’s farm.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

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Populations in the spotlight

A draft yarn into the future management of wild deer in the state is area to be released for public appraisal by the Tasmanian authorities later this year.

Nevertheless accumulating data to assist predict the future range and population numbers of fallow deer in the state has offered its bear area of challenges.

“Deer are really cryptic and so they’re relatively tricky for us to hunt,” said Dr Joanne Potts, a Hobart-based statistician.

A large group of deer grazing in a paddock of a farm with bushland in the background.

The way forward for wild deer management is being considered by the state authorities.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

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She co-authored a paper in 2014-15 on predicting the state’s future deer numbers, and said statistics assist underpin future deer management strategies.

“It puts our decision making into a transparent and explicit framework, so it helps us be relatively honest about the decisions we are making going forward,” Dr Potts said.

An aerial survey by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) estimates the state’s wild deer population has increased by 5.4 per cent each year since 2006.

A woman with short blonde hair and glasses standing in a garden smiles at the camera.

Dr Potts says it be hard to know exactly how many deer are in Tasmania.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

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In 2019, a survey of a third of the state estimated a total deer population of 53,000 — but has a range of error of 19 per cent.

“That gawk … affords us a honest understanding of how many deer are in that region, but we can’t extrapolate these findings to the remainder of Tasmania,” Dr Potts said.

Nevertheless any increase in deer numbers is concerning to Mr O’Connor.

“Someplace along the line something has changed, so we have to be extra adaptive.

Is searching the answer?

Tasmania’s six-week-long stag searching season began late last month.

“The deer season is almost fancy our excursion, our little bit of excitement to streak and hunt after a nice stag rather than helping landowners retain population numbers down,” said recreational hunter Jess Byfield.

“Eight years of stag season on Crown land and I’ve no longer obtained one but,” Tash Byfield said.

This season is the second in Tasmania that there is no bag restrict on antlerless deer harvested by hunters, after the state authorities launched the measure early last year.

Two women stand in front of a desk with a wall of trophy heads behind them.

Tash and Jess Byfield are supportive of the lack of a bag restrict.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

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“It’s a great step in the legal direction, when we’re attempting to balance the high population numbers and farm homeowners wanting to control these numbers with tranquil holding the deer here as a true handy resource for us to utilise,” Jess Byfield said.

Mr O’Connor said the lack of a bag restrict at some stage in the searching season had made an impact on the animals’ population, but there was a way to streak ahead of it was introduced below control.

“Introducing an unlimited doe cull in a certain time frame, that’s made substantial gains, but we mustn’t discontinue there,” Mr O’Connor said.

Five deer stand in a paddock next to shrubs and rocks.

Mr O’Connor says extra wants to be done to control the population of wild deer.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

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He believes encouraging recreational hunters is one way to decrease the animals’ population.

“We have been fortunate that we have now been able to salvage of us to cull does initiate air of stag season, but I deem it be getting harder and harder for folk to have the capacity to cull larger numbers,” he said.

“Recreational hunters are certainly the answer, but there’s recreational hunter plus, and that’s what we have to ogle for.”

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Tasmania’s wild deer population is on the rise. Are their growing numbers a concern?