Estimating deer densities and their impact on vegetation in the Cardinia Shire


Lorenzo Galletta, Matthew LeFoe, Mike Hall, Euan Ritchie

Deakin University and Cardinia Deer Management Coalition


Transect surveys were carried out in the Cardinia Creek catchment area to assess deer density by the count of faecal pellets. Concurrently, vegetation impact surveys were carried out in the same transect and by measuring the level of browsing of plant species along the transects. The relationship between faecal pellet count and deer impact on vegetation was assessed. Furthermore, we compared the relative density of deer assessed by faecal pellet count with the actual density as observed by drone surveys in Beaconsfield Nature Conservation Reserve. Faecal pellets were present in 30 out of 34 transects and browsed vegetation was observed in all transects. We have found a significant relationship between faecal pellets and vegetation impact: transects that had a higher count of faecal pellets also showed, on average, a higher level of browsed vegetation. The analysis accounted for the presence of other herbivores which, in turn, had a relatively lower impact. We have found that deer density and impact is higher in the south-eastern side of the area investigated: the Cardinia Creek Parklands and the Beaconsfield Nature Conservation Reserve. The comparison with drone survey show a discrepancy in the relative deer estimate, although the observed differences may be caused by the animals’ different use of space in different months given the considerable gap between the two surveys. Overall, this report shows that transect surveys can be a valuable and economic assessment tool. However, it should be integrated with more sophisticated methods over longer time spans to provide a more complete picture of deer presence in the area.

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