Fallow deer in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

A 2005 Department of Primary Industries and Water report, The Distribution and Abundance of Fallow Deer in the Central Plateau Conservation Area and adjacent areas in Tasmania, confirmed the occasional presence of deer within the Central Plateau Conservation Area (CPCA). This area falls within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA).

The report stated that there were established fallow deer populations just outside the CPCA, at Liawenee and north-west of Bronte Park, and that  deer are present, at least on a seasonal basis, within the CPCA east of Liawenee, at Nineteen Lagoon and along the Pine River and Nive River valleys. About ten years ago the TCT lobbied the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) to do more regular monitoring and consider control of deer inside the TWWHA. Monitoring has not been maintained and active control was largely dismissed as being too expensive.

Fallow deer are also present in an area at the eastern extent of the Western Tiers - an area which was included in the 2013 extension to the TWWHA.  These populations pre-dated the world heritage listing and have been hunted for many years. The 2016 TWWHA Management Plan allows recreational hunting of fallow deer in this area, but only east of the Highland Lakes Road and north and east of Great Lake. 

In the document Response to the Legislative Council Government Administration Committee “A” Inquiry and Report on Wild Fallow Deer in Tasmania (November 2017), the state government has left open the possibility of involving recreational deer hunters to assist with managing feral deer in areas of the TWWHA where recreational hunting is currently not permitted. The government’s response is very carefully worded to not express a view in regard to existing permitted hunting of deer within the TWWHA (ignoring the potential for these populations to expand) and giving a weak commitment to managing feral populations in the TWWHA. Critically, the government response in regard to feral populations includes to “investigate opportunities for regulated recreational hunting in the TWWHA”. 

While we do not want to get overly alarmed at recreational hunters potentially being allowed to assist with controlling deer in the TWWHA, the precedent this would set should be very carefully considered. 

Key issues to take into account are:

  • The PWS should institute on-going monitoring of deer numbers, movements and impacts in the TWWHA. All populations should be investigated including those currently open for recreational hunting. If impacts are significant and control is feasible, programs should be implemented. In determining ‘impacts’ it is critical to note that the mere presence of non-native species detracts from world heritage values that relate to the TWWHA being a pristine landscape devoid of invasive species. A larger consideration is whether populations outside the TWWHA should be controlled to reduce the potential for re-invasion of the TWWHA.
  • If there is a significant impact from deer, community consultation should be inclusive of all Tasmanians and not just involve deer shooters. If controlling deer is necessary, feasible and supported by the community, the PWS and/or professional contractors may do a better job than recreational shooters. If recreational shooters are utilised then it must be on the basis that deer are reduced to acceptable numbers or eradicated and not maintained as a recreational population.

Article by Peter McGlone

Header image: deer, photographer unknown