Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program
Wild deer cause damage to the environment, public and private property and pose a public safety risk in many parts of the Illawarra.
“Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deer” is listed as a key threatening process under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Deer also impact the community by being a public nuisance, browsing on garden plants and have been the cause of significant motor vehicle and railway accidents, especially around the Illawarra (South East Regional Strategic Pest Animal Plan 2018-2023)
The Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program, formerly the Northern Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program, (the Program) was founded in 2011 with the aim of suppressing the deer population in the Illawarra.
The Program is comprised of governance and operational committees made up of local public and private land managers and South East Local Land Services. South East Local Land Services currently employs a program coordinator to oversee operations.
The geography of the Illawarra is suitable for deer, bordered by natural areas to the north and the west, with access to open grassy feeding areas in peri-urban and urban areas. They travel along creek lines and through existing vegetation corridors which also support our native wildlife. Deer are a challenging pest to control in an area like this. They are a canny animal that are easily startled and learn to hide in inaccessible sites. During the rut (April to August), deer (especially stags - male deer) can be more active, more vocal and less cautious than usual. It’s during this period, sparring and fighting amongst stags, chasing of hinds (female deer), and confrontations with people, cars and trains increase. In the Illawarra, deer have been sighted in urbanised areas browsing on garden plants, on beach foreshores and in urban parkland. Collisions with cars on major roads are of significant concern as too is the attraction by illegal hunters.
All species of deer are identified as priority pests under the South East Regional Strategic Pest Animal Management Plan (the Plan).
The Plan was developed by the South East Local Land Services Regional Pest Animal Committee, comprised of key local biosecurity stakeholders including private land managers who have skills and experience in pest animal management and or strategic planning, in consultation with communities in the South East.
In September 2019 changes were made to the licencing requirements for feral deer on private land (under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002), allowing them to be managed by private landholders in the same way that rabbits, foxes, pigs and goats are controlled.
The Program, one of the largest of its kind in Australia, aims to sustain a collaborative approach for the community to mitigate the negative impacts of deer across the Illawarra.
The Program goal will be achieved by focusing on four outcomes:
- economic, social and environmental deer impacts are minimised
- the Illawarra community shares the responsibility of deer management
- the Program is safe for people and is ethical
- the Program is collaborative and financially sustainable.
Since 2011 the Program has removed over 5,000 deer from the Illawarra. Read more in the IWDMP Management Plan 2019.
A key focus of the Program is in protecting the welfare of injured animals and the humane treatment of deer.
Safety of people is paramount, and the Program has very stringent safety protocols, critical for operating without incident in populated and semi-populated areas around the Illawarra.
The Program is managed by both an operational committee and a governance committee with partners from:
- South East Local Land Services
- Wollongong City Council
- Shellharbour City Council
- Kiama Council
- NSW Police Force
- Water NSW
- South 32 – Illawarra Metallurgical Coal
- Sydney Trains
- National Parks and Wildlife Service
- Office of Environment, Energy and Science
- DPI Game Licencing Unit
- Centre for Invasive Species Solutions
- Department of Primary Industries
- Contractors appointed via tender process
- There are also more than 50 private landholders participating in the program either providing access to their land and/or reporting sightings.
The Program relies on financial contributions from major landholders, State and Local Government and grant funding.
The Program aims to offer land managers and businesses the opportunity to fulfill their General Biosecurity Duty under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (which came into effect on 1 July 2017), and to be part of a local collaborative effort in leading the management of the deer incursion in the Illawarra. Working together is critical to reduce the negative impacts of wild deer and reduce their spread throughout the Region.