Feral Deer have a significant impact on Victoria’s agricultural economy. The high density of feral deer on and adjacent to farmlands is having a significant economic and psychological impact on farmers as many battle against feral deer.
The loss of production and additional costs is significant. These economic impacts are associated with:
- Damage to a wide variety of high value produce including vegetables, fruit and nut trees, cereal crops and vineyards.
- Fouling of pasture and water sources and competition with livestock for feed as they graze improved pastures.
- Damage to infrastructure such as fencing and netting.
The cost to farmers is significant in lost production and forces them to put in place mitigation measures such as expensive fences and other protection measures. They may also have to contract professional shooters or manage hunters.
Feral deer also carry and spread livestock diseases that can impact on farm productivity and stock loss as they are biologically similar to domesticated hoofed mammals. Several diseases have been assessed as having a high risk of transmission from feral deer to Australian livestock, including bovine tuberculosis and foot and mouth disease. Other diseases that deer can carry include cryptosporidiosis, neosporosis and leptospirosis . Outbreaks of these diseases can lead to serious economic and social impacts on the whole community.
The impact of feral deer browsing on emerging trees is having a significant impact on the native forest and plantation forestry industry. Vic Forests has reported that the impact of feral deer browsing is contributing to the poor regeneration of harvested areas of native forests. The managers of softwood plantations invest heavily in controlling feral deer around softwood plantations through professional culling and in places, expensive fencing.