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  • Rikki Lambert

Feral deer in pollies' sights

Australia's growing feral deer population, which is becoming an increasing problem across the country, is being targeted by new thermal imaging technology - but a local MP wants his own federal government to double spending on the problem.

New thermal camera technology is to be used for the first time in the battle to control feral deer in Australia. The decision follows a three-day trial on farming properties in South Australia that used thermal-assisted aerial control of fallow and red deer in the Limestone Coast region.

For decades, aerial culling has been used on a variety of species including wild pigs.

Now the thermal technology can be used by marksmen culling deer from the air.

Limestone Coast-based federal MP, the Liberals' Tony Pasin, told FlowNews24 he wanted funding for deer eradication to be doubled:

"If we can put the helicopter in the air for longer, it's very expensive but we can get on top of this problem and manage it for local landholders. There is a lot of work done on the ground by landholders shooting from the ground but its nowhere near as effective as the aerial abatement program.

Mr Pasin singled out neighbouring NSW MP and environment minister, Sussan Ley, as the minister responsible:

"Sussan Ley, I met with her this week, she's making positive soundings, so I'm very hopeful that we'll have an announcement over coming months and in any event before the next program begins."

Listen to the full interview with Tony Pasin on the FlowNews24 podcast here:

With estimates the feral population could be as high as two million deer, Australia last year appointed its first National Deer Management Coordinator, Dr Annelise Wiebkin, to tackle deer numbers.

Dr Wiebkin said the number and spread of deer is growing in parts of Australia, and the use of thermal cameras will help turn that around.

"We can expect to see deer increasing in new areas every year.
"This trial has shown that it can work at pulling out more deer from dense vegetation than we've been able to before.
"It is an additional tool in the tool kit ... hopefully more people will trial it in new areas on different species of deer."

The bulk of feral deer can be found in NSW and Victoria, while populations are also growing in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT.

The animal is known to cause damage to agriculture and the environment.

In South Australia, where the trial was conducted, deer have been found in 40 per cent of agricultural regions according to industry group Livestock South Australia.

Pene Keynes from Livestock SA said the industry group is committed to supporting new technologies to control the invasive species:

"Feral deer in South Australia is a significant risk to our agricultural industries' productive capacity, biosecurity environment as well as public safety."

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the thermal cameras can assist aerial culls in real-time:

"Feral deer are a serious environmental pest and often hide in bushland during the day making them difficult to spot and cull their numbers.
"They're spreading into new areas each year - eating pastures and crops, damaging native habitats and fences, and becoming a major hazard on roads."

There are six species of feral deer in Australia, with the animal introduced into the country by European settlers in the 19th century.

A 2019 survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics found land managers spend an average of $2627 per year per property on feral deer control activities, up from $2218 in 2016.

- with AAP


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