In a strange turn of events, environmentalists want to make it easier to hunt deer, while many hunters don’t.
The state’s feral deer population has exploded and now covers 13 per cent of NSW, the Invasive Species Council says.
The organisation’s CEO Andrew Cox said the population had grown more than 60 per cent in six years. He said the solution was simple – put deer on the state’s list of pest animals.
“Landowners and farmers are being severely impacted by this expansion of deer territory in our state,” Mr Cox said.
Deer are currently classed as game and can only be hunted with a licence.
Mr Cox said declaring the deer a pest would open up more recreational hunting opportunities and allow the government to develop and fund regional plans for deer control, along with designating certain areas for local eradication.
In 2016, the NSW Natural Resources Commission recommended deer be listed as a pest and cabinet is due to respond to the recommendation soon.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is strongly opposed any changes to the deer’s status.
Shooters MLC Robert Brown said farmers already had the right to cull deer on their own property at any time and the current recreational hunting regime was working.
“In state forests where they have been hunted, feral goats and deer numbers have been driven right down,” Mr Brown said.
“The deer population is entirely controllable, as far as I’m concerned there is no problem.”
NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham it was time to treat deer like other pests and target them with government-funded control programs.
“It’s clear the approach of treating deer as game has had the desired outcome of seeing them spread across the state,” Mr Buckingham said.
“The Greens want to see non-lethal and lethal control measures rolled out across the state, free of interference from the Shooters Party and its policies, which are seeing deer spread, impacting our farmers and environment.”
AS a landowner and a deer hunter, Craig Mearns says he can see both sides of the deer debate.
Mr Mearns owns the Tamworth-based hunting supply shop Calibre Country. With large populations of deer at Willow Tree, Nundle, Manilla, Bendemeer and Barraba many of his customers are dealing with the beast as either a hunter or farmer.
“They can wreck fences, but mostly eating crops and pastures,” Mr Mearns said.
“It’s like have another mob of sheep on your land.
“I sit on the fence with it – being a landholder, pest destruction is a must.
“On the other hand, I like my deer hunting. Deer are a resource as far as hunting goes, especially places like Nundle, where deer hunting brings in a lot of money.
“So I can see where there needs to be a happy medium.”