Parks Victoria has reported that its contracted shooters dispatched 119 deer in 20 hours during the aerial deer culling trial held in the Mt Buffalo and Alpine National Parks on October 16-18.
SSAA Victoria was given an update on the trial and was told the results equated to around one deer shot every 10 minutes of flying time.
A helicopter was used to target deer in areas around Mt Buffalo, Mt Feathertop and Mt Pinnibar, which included inaccessible and rugged terrain.
“During the operation, the air observers could identify significant track networks and large wallows that had been formed by deer across the park,” said a Parks Victoria spokesman.
“The aim of the operation was to trial aerial shooting in spring at a range of elevations and in a variety of terrain and vegetation types.
“Data collected from the trial will be reviewed to improve our understanding of the technique and how it might be used as part of an integrated mix of methodologies for managing deer to protect these environmentally sensitive areas.”
An independent vet was employed to monitor the animal welfare outcomes. All carcass locations were recorded and 10 per cent were examined by the vet to ensure shooting was carried out humanely.
Those near waterways were visited and moved where required to prevent contamination of water catchments.
The trial was part of Parks Victoria’s Alpine conservation strategy, in line with the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).
SSAA Victoria is waiting to see the full report including the cost of the trial and impact on hunting opportunities in areas adjacent to the trial zones.
“Recreational hunting opportunities must not be impacted by aerial deer culling,” SSAA Victoria Hunting Development Manager David Laird said.
“We will continue to argue that recreational hunting is a better and cheaper alternative to aerial culling in most cases.
“However, we also understand the need to protect environmentally sensitive areas in places where hunting is not currently permitted.
Mr Laird said the fact that recreational hunters take more than 100,000 deer each year shows that hunting is an effective method of controlling deer numbers.
“We will push for hunters to be given greater access to the National Parks where deer are prevalent.”
Parks Victoria said all the data collected will be reviewed at the end of the aerial control trial.
“The results will be combined with those from the ongoing ground shooting trial to find the best mix of methods to control the deer population,” Parks Victoria said.
“It will allow Parks Victoria to determine the level of deer control required to protect the environmentally sensitive areas and the best combination of techniques to use.
“An ongoing, sustainable deer control action plan will then be prepared in line with the recently released Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy.”
SSAA Victoria understands that the trial will conclude after a further cull which is scheduled to take place in late summer.