All wild deer except hog deer may in some cases be regarded as feral on private land throughout Victoria, making it easier for landholders to manage them as pests.
It follows a new declaration under the Wildlife Act, reflecting changes requested by farmers and cautiously supported by the Australian Deer Association.
ADA president David Voss was hopeful that this change would provide the impetus for further deer management.
“The ADA has fiercely defended the game status of deer since 1969, and we're pleased that there are still very strong protection for deer on all public land and private land where they are not causing issues,” he said.
“What we need in Victoria is a comprehensive wild deer strategy to take the politics and ideology out of the deer debate and move forward based on reason and science.
“Our team in Victoria works very constructively with government and I see no reason why this can’t be progressed.”
Chital, red, wapiti, sika, sika-red crosses, fallow, rusa and sambar deer are all now classified as “unprotected” on all privately held land in the state.
“We see this as an acknowledgment by government that wild deer require considered management,” Mr Voss said.
“Such a move would be disastrous for deer in some other states but in the Victorian context we can appreciate the very real need to allow landowners to be able manage deer on their properties as they see fit.
“For some farmers this will remove some red tape, which is a positive.”
The changes do not create a free-for-all on deer, with a number of restrictions placed on the hunting of the listed species.
The ADA says it is essentially the same as an Authority to Control Wildlife and allows the use of spotlights to control problem deer.
The new regime allows only deer “causing injury or damage” to be targeted, although the definitions of injury and damage are broad enough to cover just about every situation in which deer may be on a property, including eating grass.
People shooting deer must have signed and dated written permission from the landowner, and carry it with them at all times. Written permission is only valid for 12 months from the day it was signed.
As with game hunting rules, a minimum calibre of firearm is mandated for deer:
- Fallow, chital: centrefires of .243-cal with 80gr bullets or muzzleloaders of .38-cal and 200gr projectile.
- All others: .270/130gr or .45/230gr.
For all deer, smoothbore firearms must be from 20-bore to 12-bore using at least a 245gr solid projectile, and they must have front and rear iron sights (not of beaded type) or a scope or reflex sight.
The deer may be kept for food or trophies, provided it is for non-commercial purposes, and while in storage the carcass or parts must be kept in a bag or other container that is marked with the name and address of the landowner as well as the date on which the animal was taken.
The changes do not apply to hunting deer on public land, and hog deer are excluded because of their vulnerability.