There is a surge in feral animals across NSW and the risk of feral deer becoming established on the North Coast and NSW farmers and local councils are calling for action.
Rutting or mating season is currently underway and Tweed and Byron shire councils have been altering residents to the increasing number of feral deer in the region and asking people to report sightings.
‘The breeding season or rut has begun for Fallow and Red deer, which is the time of year when they are most active,’ said a spokesperson for Tweed Shire Council.
The mating season for deer runs from June to October.
‘There have been 50 confirmed sightings of feral deer reported in the Tweed since the Northern Rivers Feral Deer Alert program was launched in May 2021 and Tweed Council’s Feral Deer Management Officer Rachel Hughes said there are indications of numbers increasing, and to expect the unexpected.
‘It is likely recent flooding will have dispersed feral deer into new areas. Be on the look-out not only in rural areas but also in urban areas,’ Ms Hughes said.
‘Deer are renowned for jumping out from roadsides and bounding across roads. Some feral deer weigh up to 240kg – almost as much as a Harley Davidson motorbike – and 3 times the weight of a male red kangaroo! That’s not something you want to see on the road in front of you, especially in the dark.
‘They can also reduce the ability of farmers to earn a living and cause significant environmental damage.
‘Feral deer are most active at dawn and dusk which coincides with peak periods for road users.’
Byron Council’s Biodiversity Team Leader Liz Caddick said ‘Rusa male deers have been recently spotted around the Byron Shire. If you start seeing 2 or 3 you probably have 10 to 20 around and the damage they’re likely to cause is significant so acting fast and reporting any sightings is critical.’
‘The Northern Rivers is one of the few areas left on the eastern seaboard of Australia where deer have not yet become established and we need to pull together and do everything we can to keep it that way.’
Pigs, cats and dogs
Across the state, NSW Farmers members reported an increase in the number of wild dogs and pigs, while deer were expanding their territory. Of most concern were the surging numbers of feral cats, which the CSIRO reported were responsible for 1.8 billion native animal deaths each year.
Neil Baker, a farmer in the Tweed, said there were shocking reports of livestock being attacked by feral animals.
‘It’s really nasty some of the stories you hear, animals being ripped apart by predators,’ Mr Baker said.
‘We’re really very concerned that these pests aren’t being properly controlled by some public and private landholders, and that’s giving them safe haven to breed and grow their territory.
‘The rules around controlling pest animals are clear, and it’s about time everyone was held to the same standard.’
NSW Farmers Western Division Council chair Gerard Glover said there were a lot of feral cats appearing on cameras that had been set up across the region, and the expansion of deer into new areas would create headaches for motorists, but pigs and dogs remained the main concern for farmers.
‘Cats and foxes typically prey on small native animals, which is a big concern, while deer present a new danger for people driving on country roads,’ Mr Glover said.
‘Far and away though the pigs and the dogs are the most destructive, tearing up paddocks and fences, and attacking livestock.
‘In my experience you need good, co-ordinated controls that everyone sticks to, otherwise you get these population explosions and the whole problem starts again.’