Ten thousand feral deer estimated in South Australia in 2019; first introduced in 1880

A fallow deer buck among the expanding South Australian feral population.

About 10,000 feral deer were estimated by the state agriculture department to be in South Australia in 2019, prompting a new state government policy requiring landowners to destroy any of the animals found on their properties.

A deer control coordinator was appointed to warn landholders about the damage done by increasing numbers of the pest in other areas. Deer farmers have to identify all their deer more than 12 months old with ear tags. New deer farmers also have to build fences at least 1.9 metres tall to keep them in.

Feral deer hotspots included the south east of the state and the Adelaide Hills but the pests were also seen in low numbers in the mid north region and on the Eyre Peninsula.

Deer should not be released from captivity and keepers must notify neighbouring landholders if any escape.

Deer were first released in South Australia in 1880 for hunting. Feral deer have been eradicated from Kangaroo Island but a six species have been let loose on the mainland, with fallow and red deer the most common. They have become an agricultural, environmental and social pest. Populations of deer are expanding and invading new areas, partly due to escapes from deer farms, being deliberately introduced by recreational hunters and insufficient control of existing populations.

Deer eat native plants, trample saplings, and rub against mature plants. They compete with native wildlife and livestock for grass, and contribute to eroding creek and river systems. They can also be a road hazard. Methods for effective disposal of feral deer are limited to shooting, with commercial harvesters available. Five licensed game meat processors operate in South Australia.

The new policy for deer also applied to feral pigs. Land managers have to destroy all feral pigs on their properties and any movement, possession, release and sale of feral pigs is prohibited.

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