Hunting for a feral solution

INCENTIVES are needed to encourage farmers and shooters to work together to address concerns around native wildlife and their impact on agricultural land, say landowners.

In recent weeks the significant numbers of culled wildlife under the Property Protection Act were released in Parliament while stricter regulations have been introduced on deer farms to arrest any increase in wild populations from their stock. Farmers have also come under pressure for issues around property access. A farmer with properties in the Southern Midlands and Derwent Valley believes there is a happy medium somewhere between decimated crops, unhappy hunters and the huge wildlife culls.

“I hunt and farm and I can see a bit of the issue from all sides,” said the farmer who wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve had entire crops wiped out by wildlife and there’s no amount of gunpowder that will stop that. “I think we need to look at the issue differently. “Incentives or grants would allow farmers to build proper wildlife-proof fences that could save their crops. “I know there are places where fencing isn’t an easy thing to do so why not incentivise shooters to change their behaviour towards removing the deer or wallaby carcasses from the properties and make it more appealing for farmers to let them come in. “As I understand that is a big issue for a lot of landowners. “Have somewhere at the end of the hunt where those carcasses could be used for more than their horns.”

Pure Tasmanian Pet Food owner Megan Rousell said a steady supply of meat from hunters would be readily accepted. “Beef and lamb is so expensive that it doesn’t even reach the pet food market,” Ms Rousell said. “I’d love to be able to sell venison and if you talk to any processor they will say the same thing.”

Ms Rousell said the protection of deer was getting in the way of a solution that could help all parties. “Deer in particular are becoming detrimental to farms and producers,” she said. “If they could be handled the same way as kangaroos where hunters are trained to shoot and harvest the animals then it could be a simple solution. “But they’re so still highly protected and it’s beginning to get out of hand. “I’m overrun on our farm and there just hasn’t been the will to get the policies changed.”

Primary Industries and Water Minister Jo Palmer acknowledged the difficulties farmers are facing against wildlife. “Farmers have raised wildlife concerns with me and a lot that I’ve talked to have to deal with wildlife as part of their normal operations,” Ms Palmer said. “It has been quite eye-opening for me to hear the length some of our farmers need to go to protecting their crops.” “They are investing in their farms and putting food on our tables and they need ways to protect their business and their livelihoods from the impacts of wildlife.” “The department actively assesses control measures to determine the best approach, and importantly, ensures that any take of wildlife is sustainable to the overall population.”

Farmers also have concerns about the impact of wild deer despite changes to the regulation of deer farms. The Nature Conservation (Deer Farming) Regulations 2022 include new arrangements for deer farmers which include a deer farm licence system aiming to improve the responsible management of farmed deer and minimise risks of deer straying into the surrounding environment. It also supports improved requirements for fencing and handling as well as providing greater measures for tagging and record keeping ensuring that escaped farm deer can be identified and traced back to their source.