Helicopter Cull - 118 Sambar and 1 Fallow

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The Weekly Times has reported the first helicopter cull of sambar deer has netted 118 sambar deer and 1 fallow deer in 20 hours of flight time. A kill rate of one animal every 10 minutes.

The cull has been fiercely debated, and locals are already questioning the costs that the Weekly Times have come up with after Parks Victoria refused to reveal the cost of the operation to the Victorian taxpayers.

"However, the hourly cost of hiring a helicopter is about $500, with a marksman costing another $100-$150, plus travel and downtime due to bad weather, bringing the total cost to about $15,000, or about $125 per deer. Parks Victoria administrative and planning costs would have added significantly to this".

The cull was part of a Parks Victoria trial to determine if the aerial shooting was a cost-effective tool for culling deer in

inaccessible areas of the state’s alpine parks.

A professional marksman was flown across Mt Buffalo and the Alpine National Park on October 16-19, with a veterinarian on board to observe each kill and inspect about 10 per cent of carcasses to ensure the shooting was carried out humanely.

“Those (carcasses) near waterways were visited and moved where required to prevent contamination of water catchments,” a Parks spokeswoman said.

The Australian Deer Association spokesman Barry Howlett said there was a role for aerial culling, but it was expensive and was really only viable in inaccessible areas with high value “niche” ecological assets.

He said the reality was the bulk of the effort would continue to be done by Victoria’s 37,000 recreational hunters, who killed about 100,000 deer annually.

Farmer and Landcare groups have been calling on the government to declare deer a pest species in a bid to have more resources allocated to controlling the million deer they estimate are destroying forests and eating their pastures.

The Tallangatta Valley Landcare Group and local Victorian Farmers Federation branch estimated deer cost them about $2 million annually in lost pasture production.

But Mr Howlett said history showed the government would not allocate more resources to controlling a species simply because it was declared a pest, citing rabbits as a key example.

He said decent surveys were needed to identify areas of high deer abundance and then getting recreational hunters to target these areas.

Parks Victoria has reported it would combine the results of the aerial cull with those from the ongoing ground shooting trial to find the best mix of methods to control deer. It said it would allow Parks Victoria to determine the level of deer control required to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

If these aerial culls continue, we can only hope that our clubs and associations rally to get guidelines in place similar to NZ tahr culling where just females are meant to be targeted.

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