This information sheet is for landowners concerned about unwanted deer on your land and what you can do about it. Hopefully we can answer most of your questions or, if not, point you in the direction of where you might find the answers.
Although deer are not native to Australia, they are classed as a protected species in Victoria. However, the Victorian government, in recognition of the impact deer are having on the environment, farms, private property and our roads have amended some of the laws regarding deer.
Principle among these for farmers and other private landowners is that deer are not protected on private property if they “ are causing damage or injury to landowners’ property, infrastructure (e.g. fences), vegetation (e.g. pasture, plantations, orchards) or livestock.” This change in the law, and some others as well, have changed to options private landowners have to combat deer on their land. So, what options do you have?
Living with deer. Some landowners are perfectly happy having deer on their land, and under current legislation this is perfectly legal. For some people, this may mean protecting more sensitive or valuable areas from deer. For others, particularly where livelihoods or high conservation value areas are threatened, excluding deer from the property will be required.
Fences. Tall wire fence: This option is being increasingly used by farmers as the costs and time involved in deer control become untenable. Not that fencing is cheap. Deer are able to leap 2 metre high fences from a standing start and seem quite happy to do so. This makes deer fences quite expensive to install and also to maintain. However, in certain circumstances it is the only realistic option available. This is especially being used by orchardists, vineyards and market gardens, where the risk of deer getting into a crop for just a single night can be devastating. If the fence or top of the fence is angled to make it wider, this can mean the fence can be constructed slightly lower. There are fence extenders available on line which can help here. Double fence: deer do not like being in enclosed spaces, A second fence a couple of metres in from the first is a good deterrent, but nearly doubles the cost. Usually a double fence will not need to be 2 metres high as deer arer already discourage from leaping the first fence. Solid fences: when jumping, deer do not like to land somewhere out of sight. A solid fence that is above the eye height of deer will be a good barrier. Unfortunately they are significantly more expensive than wire fences. Electric fence: This is much cheaper and can be effective for short periods, but deer can become accustomed to it and they can jump over it, Useful for protecting individual trees or small plots. Ribbon fence: these are made of colourful and noisy ribbons and are designed to scare deer. May not work on very still nights and have not generally been found to be effective in the long term, and marginally effective in the short term.
Deterrents. Dogs: are highly effective. Maremmas are a typical example. Obviously you will need to fence the dog in and look after it, which can add a significant and ongoing cost. Don’t forget the vet bills. Scent deterrents: Commonly available overseas, less so here. Work by spraying a obnoxious or predator type smell to dissuade deer coming in to treated areas. Need to be regularly re treated and not 100% effective. Probably better for short term use, like when the roses are in bloom. Deer can become accustomed over the long term. Fox scarers and floodlights: These devices emit a light and/or sound designed to keep foxes and rabbits away. Not so effective against deer, despite what the advertising says. Deer do not usually like well-lit areas, but will ignore this if they are hungry enough or the available feed enticing enough.
Removing the incentive. Deer are after food. If you remove the things they find the most delicious (they have an excellent sense of smell) they will be less likely to enter your property. Removing roses and fruit trees is a start. Fence in your veggies very well. Talk to your neighbours and see what the deer eat out of their gardens and avoid them. There is also a growing list of plants that deer known to be are unpalatable to deer. Your local nursery make be able to help you.
Controlling deer. Note, we have specifically used the term “controlling” deer, rather than “hunting.” This is because the laws relating to the two methods are very different.
In short, deer huntingis conducted on crown land, for example National and State parks and reserves. Deer hunters require a special deer hunting permit and are not allowed to use spotlights or thermal imaging equipment.