Recent research undertaken by theRainforest Cooperative Research Centre(CRC) has found that feral deer are more widespread in the Wet Tropics than firstthought. The research has found thesedeer are capable of breeding rapidly toform large herds that could causesignificant, and possibly irreversible,environmental damage.Feral deer also pose a significant threat toagricultural production and could becomea major road safety hazard.The good news is that, as a threat, feraldeer populations in the Wet Tropics are stillat a stage where they can be managed, ifnot eradicated. Control will require acombination of on-ground action as wellas policy and legal initiatives.
The Wet Tropics Management Authority, with Natural Heritage Trust funding, iscoordinating a regional feral deereducation and awareness program. Theprogram has the support of a number ofgovernment and community agenciesthrough the FNQ Pest Advisory Forum.The intent is to gain a better understandingof the distribution of feral deer in the WetTropics and then to use that information asthe basis for determining the need foraction, both on-ground and regulatory.
Deer - a long history inAustralia, but more recentarrivals in the Wet Tropics
Many long-established feral deer herds in Australia are the result of plannedreleases by acclimatisation societies in the1800s and early 1900s. From thesereleases there are established herds inQueensland on the Torres Strait islands,the Charters Towers area, and southernand southeast Queensland. There are anestimated 200,000 feral deer in Australia in218 known herds. It is believed there areabout 30,000 of these deer in Queenslandin about 20 established populations.Recent research has found that of the 218herds, only 14 are long establishedpopulations with 77 being escapes fromdeer farms and 127 the result of deliberatetranslocation and release (Moriarty, 2004).It appears a number of herds establishedat the same time as a general decline inthe farmed deer sector in the early 1990s.Some deer escaped, some weredeliberately translocated, and some weresold to small landholders and hobby farms with inadequate deer enclosures.The Rainforest CRC study found mostreported deer sightings in the Wet Tropics were concentrated around existing orformer deer farms. There were alsoreports of smaller herds that may haveoriginated from hobby farms.
Where are they?
Reported feral deer sightings so far in the Wet Tropics have been limited to theCairns, Johnstone, Eacham and Mareebalocal government areas.Sightings have been reported at EastRussell, Yarrabah, Bartle Frere, EastPalmerston, Crawfords Lookout, MissionBeach, Granadilla, Tarzali, East Evelyn,Lake Eacham, Mareeba, Koah andSpeewah.The accompanying map shows thelocation of feral deer sightings as well asthe location of present deer farms.
What are they?
Reports and descriptions indicate thatmost of these sightings may be rusa deer,a deer that originates from Indonesia.Other species such as fallow (native tocontinental Europe) and chital (India andSri Lanka) may also be present.
Feral deer sightings and deer farms currently in operation.
Feral deer in the Wet Tropics