The impact of deer on private property and costs to our farming community are escalating rapidly
When the first community meeting to discuss the issue of deer in our catchment was organised by the Upper Beaconsfield Conservation Group, environmental damage was at the forefront of their thoughts and concerns. It quickly became apparent during the Q & A open forum session, the issue of deer encroaching on private land was possibly THE big issue for most people there.
Boundary fences were no barrier to deer, who can leap over a two metre fence from a standing start. Landowners had no control over the deer and the damage being caused in a single night could be devastating.
We have had correspondence from private landowners like:
“I have read the interesting article in the Upper Beaconsfield Village Bell, in reference to the feral deer problem.
My property is situated on Wellington Road, and we are visited daily by a herd of deer, which is causing damage to paddocks, and garden!
I am actually at my wits end as to how this constant invasion will ever cease.”
One landowner’s reply to a survey asking farmers to quantify the value of damage to their farming enterprises was eye-opening:
“Our biggest impact is on our fruit trees.
Trees that are 6-30 years old and 6 m tall can be badly damaged in one night.
It is very disheartening, expensive to replace (cost of new trees, and labour and machinery hire to removal the old trees and putting in a new ones) and then there is the economic cost of the fruit lost each year until the new tree is fully mature (15 years).”
All up this farmer put a conservative estimate of replacement cost & lost income per tree before reaching maturity of $1610. As well as this there is the cost of erecting 2m high deer proof fencing around the property, which regularly need repairing due to damage caused by deer.
Among the hardest hit are the Landcare communities. Revegetation works they have been carrying out for decades are being hard hit as the usual tree guards offer no protection against deer. For example, a Bessie Ck Landcare property owner wrote recently that
“our experience is that the deer pass through so damage is sporadic but definitely varies from 100% destruction for a re-vegetation area to persistent pruning causing stunting over years, to times when nothing happens for a season or two.”
A Tonimbuk farmer was nearly in tears at a recent community meeting as he described the devastation wreaked by deer on the revegetation works he had carried out on his own property since the 2009 bushfires.
There are some landowners who “don’t mind bambi at the bottom of the paddock.” Deer are a beautiful animal and can’t be blamed for being transported to Australia. And they don’t “intend” to do harm. But harm happens, and bambi doesn’t stay in that paddock, but goes into the next, and the garden next door, and the orchard over the road.
(For a transcript of a letter from one of our farming members written in response to the DEWLP Draft Deer Management Strategy, read here.)