Questions and Answers about feral deer management in the ACT

Sambar Deer in Namadgi National Park

Sambar deer in Namadgi National Park

Questions and answers

  1. Where did the deer come from?
    Populations of feral deer have become established in all Australian states and territories through a range of pathways including deliberate releases by acclimatisation societies (which are groups that introduce animals from around the world in order to expand the type of fauna in an area), escapees from commercial deer farms and illegal releases by individuals.
  2. What are the different types of deer in the ACT?
    There are six species of feral deer in Australia: red, sambar, fallow, rusa, chital and hog. Red, sambar and fallow have been reported in the ACT.
  3. How widespread are feral deer across the ACT?
    In recent years all species of feral deer have been increasing in their distribution and abundance across Australia, including here in the ACT. Although deer are well camouflaged animals and generally difficult to detect until they are in quite high numbers; sightings in the ACT have been increasing over the last five to ten years with deer now being recorded across many areas of the ACT including Namadgi national park, some Canberra nature parks and surrounding rural areas.
  4. Are there deer in the areas surrounding the ACT?
    All three species recorded in the ACT occur in the surrounding regions of NSW.
  5. Are people allowed to shoot deer in the ACT when they see them?
    Feral deer are a declared pest animal in the ACT under the provisions of the Pest Plants and Animals Act 2005 due to the potential environmental impacts associated with their activities. Although hunting is not permitted on public land in the ACT, rural landholders are permitted to cull deer at any time on their property so long as it is done in accordance with relevant firearm and animal welfare legislation.
  6. Deer shooting in NSW
    Deer are managed as a game species in NSW with a declared open hunting season which is heavily regulated by the NSW Department of Primary Industries. For more information please visit http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/hunting/regulations.
  7. If someone sees a deer, who should they tell?
    Anyone wishing to report a deer sighting in the ACT is to encouraged contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81. The necessary information will be entered into a registry of sightings which aims to improve our understanding of this animal's distribution.
  8. How do you control deer numbers?
    There are currently no techniques available for broad scale control of feral deer populations. Localised control of feral deer is limited to opportunistic ground based shooting.
  9. Are there animal welfare considerations associated with shooting deer?
    Ground based shooting of feral deer is undertaken in accordance with Standard Operating procedure DEE001: Ground Shooting of Feral Deer prepared by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
  10. What is the ACT Government doing about feral deer in the ACT?
    Historically deer control has focussed on opportunistic ground based shooting; however with the increasing sightings of deer, the ACT Government has:
    • conducted interviews with a range of ACT land managers that indicates feral deer occur in low numbers across most of the ACT
    • established monitoring transects in various locations across ACT lowlands to monitor any changes in population numbers
    • established vegetation monitoring plots in environmentally sensitive areas in the mountains of Namadgi national park as an early warning strategy to see if deer are increasing and whether control actions might be necessary
    • undertaking control actions in some specific lowland areas where deer populations are increasing to unacceptably high numbers. In order to minimise the risk of illegal hunting, the location of these sites are not publicised
    • maintaining close liaison with NSW authorities over developments in deer control techniques and possible joint control programs along our borders. 
  11. What should people do if they stumble across a deer?
    Deer are very wary animals and so if they see or hear people they will most likely run away; however as with any wild animal, you should not approach them under any circumstances.
  12. What should people do if they hit a deer in their car?
    If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident involving deer, obviously the first priority is the safety of yourself and others. If the animal is injured, or killed please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 as soon as possible so a wildlife ranger can attend to the situation. If the animal has left the scene we would still be interested in hearing about the sighting through Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
  13. When do records show sightings started?
    Our registry of deer sightings started in 2006; however there have been occasional reports of deer being sighted in the ACT as far back as the late 1980s.
  14. Where can I get more information?
    The Australian Government's Department of the Environment has a fact sheet about deer.