A brief history of deer in Victoria
Deer are not native to Australia and were introduced to Victoria in the mid-1880s as game animals and were farmed until the 1980s when the deer industry largely collapsed due to declining market value of farmed deer (DELWP 2020, Davis et al. 2016).
Since the 1980s, due to human assisted (farm escapes and illegal deer releases) and natural dispersal from established populations, deer have been rapidly expanding their range and numbers in the wild and they have now invaded a wide variety of vegetation types across the state (Davis et al. 2016, DELWP 2020, GMA 2023). They are now considered feral as they are an animal introduced to Australia for domestic purposes and are now uncontained and uncontrolled.
The specific numbers of feral deer and the actual annual change in numbers in Victoria is unknown. However, the population has been estimated to be around 1 million for some years now, occupying nearly 40% of Victoria (DELWP 2020).
Deer spread in Victoria and impact
There are rising numbers of anecdotal reports and recorded sightings of feral deer that indicate that they are continuing to expand their range and numbers significantly (Davis et al. 2016, DELWP 2020).
These records indicate that deer are continuing to expand in range and numbers throughout Victoria and now occur in every habitat from the lowlands and rivers to the alpine areas and all areas in between.
The alarming spread of feral deer across Victoria since the 1920’s can be seen in the Invasive Species Council website here: Feral deer spread video
Disturbances such as increasing frequency and extent of wildfire do not appear to be impacting the increase in deer numbers and bushfires may be assisting their spread.
Deer are also presently protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and managed as game animals rather than feral pests which is contributing to ongoing population growth and range expansion.