Victoria’s long-awaited deer management strategy, promised under the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan 2016-2020 (SHAP), has finally emerged. Unfortunately, it has not come out as a management strategy but rather as a narrowly focused deer control edict that will leave Victoria’s 40,000 licensed deer hunters disappointed.
The Association has worked cooperatively with government and other stakeholders in providing advice and feedback on the development of the deer management strategy over the past four years. The draft strategy, released for public comment in late 2018, did not provide hunters with everything that they would want. However, it did provide a constructive framework to work within that would enable deer to be managed in a coordinated manner across the state. It also acknowledged that deer were a valued recreational resource.
Disappointingly, that draft has been turned into a basic control agenda that largely ignores hunters and fails to acknowledge the positive aspects of Victoria’s wild deer populations. The control strategy could easily be mistaken for a simple rehash of the anti-deer propaganda put out by VNPA over recent years.
SSAA Victoria has long acknowledged that wild deer need to be appropriately managed to mitigate negative impacts where they occur. Accredited volunteers have been involved in long-term partnerships with Parks Victoria (PV) to conduct control programs to reduce damage in sensitive environments for many years. The Association has also helped mitigate impacts on agricultural production by linking farmers to accredited volunteers through the Farmer Assist scheme.
An effective deer management strategy would look to minimise any negative impacts while maximising the positive aspects of the resource. Control is only one aspect of an overall management strategy. Recreational hunters harvested nearly 180,000 deer in Victoria in 2019, paying for the privilege, and so deserve more than they are getting out of the strategy that has just been released. While recreational hunting is not the answer to all of the negative impacts caused by deer, it has an enormous part to play in the overall management of deer populations.
The narrow focus of this control strategy misses an opportunity to integrate recreational hunting effectively and positively into an overall deer management initiative. The Association does not consider that the control strategy, as announced, meets the Government’s commitment under SHAP to develop a deer management strategy to ensure sustainable hunting.
The Association will continue to provide practical and considered advice to government with the objective of providing sustainable hunting opportunities, reducing negative deer impacts and maximising the positive aspects of deer as a valuable resource in Victoria.
More information will be provided to members over the coming weeks and the Association will also provide constructive feedback to government on the control strategy.
Click here to see the final control strategy.