New camera technology targets feral deer

Liv CasbenAAP
Red deer were introduced to Australia by European settlers in the 19th century.
Camera IconRed deer were introduced to Australia by European settlers in the 19th century. Credit: AP

New thermal camera technology is to be used for the first time in the battle to control feral deer in Australia.

The decision follows a three-day trial on farming properties in South Australia that used thermal-assisted aerial control of fallow and red deer in the Limestone Coast region.

For decades, aerial culling has been used on a variety of species including wild pigs.

Now the thermal technology can be used by marksmen culling deer from the air.

With estimates the feral population could be as high as as two million deer, Australia last year appointed its first National Deer Management Coordinator, Dr Annelise Wiebkin, to tackle deer numbers.

Dr Wiebkin told AAP the number and spread of deer is growing in parts of Australia, and the use of thermal cameras will help turn that around.

"We can expect to see deer increasing in new areas every year," she said.

"This trial has shown that it can work at pulling out more deer from dense vegetation than we've been able to before," Dr Wiebkin said.

"It is an additional tool in the tool kit ... hopefully more people will trial it in new areas on different species of deer," she said.

The bulk of feral deer can be found in NSW and Victoria, while populations are also growing in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT.

The animal is known to cause damage to agriculture and the environment.

In South Australia, where the trial was conducted, deer have been found in 40 per cent of agricultural regions according to industry group Livestock South Australia.

"Feral deer in South Australia is a significant risk to our agricultural industries' productive capacity, biosecurity environment as well as public safety," said Pene Keynes from Livestock SA.

And she said the industry group is committed to supporting new technologies to control the invasive species.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the thermal cameras can assist aerial culls in real time.

"Feral deer are a serious environmental pest and often hide in bushland during the day making them difficult to spot and cull their numbers," Mr Littleproud said.

"They're spreading into new areas each year - eating pastures and crops, damaging native habitats and fences, and becoming a major hazard on roads."

There are six species of feral deer in Australia, with the animal introduced into the country by European settlers in the 19th century.

A 2019 survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics found land managers spend an average of $2627 per year per property on feral deer control activities, up from $2218 in 2016.

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