Over 150 deer have been culled in what the ACT Government has called a ‘successful’ aerial shooting program in the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo River Corridors and surrounding land last week.
Rising populations of fallow deer in the ACT’s Bullen Range, Woodstock and Lower Molonglo nature reserves prompted ACT Parks and Conservation to order a cull of the feral animals last month. The operation saw 156 deer culled in a week-long shooting program.
In total, 152 fallow deer, four sambar deer as well as 11 feral pigs and one feral goat were culled as part of the program.
ACT Parks and Conservation’s invasive animal manager Oliver Orgill said fallow deer populations in Canberra’s river corridors and surrounding areas had been a major concern for the service, especially in the Lower Molonglo nature reserve.
Calling deer “invasive animals that graze on native plants, kill young trees through antler rubbing and cause damage to sensitive river corridor environments with their hooves”, Mr Orgill said they have the potential to cause significant environmental and agricultural damage if populations are left unchecked.
“We have been able to significantly reduce the emerging feral deer populations in Bullen Range, Woodstock and Lower Molonglo nature reserves and surrounding areas before they have a chance to become established,” Mr Orgill said.
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“Of note, we were able to remove over 50 fallow deer from the Lower Molonglo nature reserve which will reduce the likelihood of deer from this population moving up the river corridor and into urban areas.
“This will reduce impacts on our nature reserves and surrounding farmland.”
ACT Parks and Conservation regularly undertakes ground-based deer control programs with previous programs at Googong foreshores removing 430 deer since 2014, and 60 deer in sensitive areas in the Murrumbidgee River corridor since 2015.
Alongside an independent vet who monitored the program to make sure the cull took place humanely, Mr Orgill said the successful cull shows the program is effective and will be implemented again.
“The success of the operation lays a solid foundation and demonstrates this type of program is effective, efficient and operationally sound,” he said. “It will be able to be implemented again in the future to control emerging feral deer populations.
“An independent vet helped monitor the operation and undertook over 50 carcass inspections on the ground. The auditing revealed all feral deer were culled humanely in accordance with operational protocols and no adverse welfare outcomes were reported.
“We thank the public for cooperating with the nature reserve and trail closures for the duration of the program.”
Nature reserves and walking trails, including part of the Centenary Trail were closed while the program took place, but have now reopened.