John McRae, Program Manager, Australian Alps Co-operative Management Program
In early November 2016, around 40 participants gathered at Howman’s Gap Alpine Centre for the biennial Australian Alps Operations workshop. The focus this time round was on feral deer and other ungulates.
For years now, land managers have been referring to deer as an emerging issue. Well, they have emerged. Although there is some contention about the exact numbers, recreational shooters at the workshop suggested that around 60,000 deer were shot in Victoria last year. That’s a lot of large, heavy ungulates traipsing about the landscape. They are causing damage to our natural heritage, as well as to crops and infrastructure. They are also a major hazard for road users. Hitting a large deer is more like hitting a cow than a kangaroo.
As is usual with Alps events, there were major contributions from all agencies. We also had recreational and professional shooters deliver presentations. All participants showed strong interest in the program and there were many valuable exchanges across the floor. Parks Victoria staff arranged a short field trip to nearby Wallace’s hut. They also arranged for some fabulous weather which was much appreciated after such a storm wracked spring. The weather was so good during the field trip, that it was a challenge getting everyone back to Howman’s Gap to continue the presentations.
We crammed a lot of information and experiences into this workshop, with activities stretching well into both nights. It speaks volumes about the importance of the subject and professionalism of the attendees that they remained engaged throughout. There was great camaraderie between all attendees and an appreciation that this kind of knowledge sharing can only enhance our capacity to mitigate the threat that feral deer and other ungulates pose to the Australian Alps.