Tasmanian landowners are slaughtering 15,000 deer each year and dumping them in pits

Tasmanian landowners are slaughtering 15,000 deer each year and dumping them in pits



In the short grass on a farm in Tasmania’s central midlands, Scott Chorley is squatting. He lets off one shot. It strikes a fallow deer square in the eyes as it resounds over the level grassland. He has over 400 this year and 50 for the evening. Chorley, one of a group of seven professional hunters, kills roughly 900 deer year. Then he lets them decay.

He explains, “I just kill them and leave them on the ground.”

Although Chorley is permitted to take some flesh for personal consumption, he is not permitted to sell any of it due to a rule safeguarding deer. Since their remains are dumped in pits, approximately 15,000 deer are shot in Tasmania every year.

Landowners in Tasmania must apply for a crop protection permit in order to shoot deer, and hunters must possess a game license, which only permits them to shoot during a specific season. If not, they are regarded as a protected species.

If I don’t see 50-100 a night, I think it’s strange
Scott Chorley

Chorley declares, “I’m sick and tired of slaughtering animals and abandoning them. “I commercially sell [the] forester kangaroo, a member of our natural species. Nobody criticizes that, though. Only in Tasmania can you find a forester kangaroo.

“The forester kangaroo isn’t throughout the world; the deer was imported 190 years ago and is. I can sell 50 of the animals I shoot tonight if I want to; selling just one ounce of venison is absurd.

In particular in Tasmania, environmentalists, farmers, and hunters do not frequently get along. But they both concur that there are too many deer.

With claims that their population has grown into the world heritage area, it is estimated that there are now 100,000 of them living throughout the state. If there is no active management, the deer population is predicted to keep growing and reach one million by the middle of the century.

Environmentalists are concerned the animals are encroaching on the state’s wilderness, farmers despise them because they destroy fences and grazing land, and commercial hunters are angry because they have to watch meat rot.

After Victoria and New South Wales modified their laws in 2019 to allow for the sale of deer meat commercially, Tasmania is the last state to continue this prohibition.

To assist the farmers, Chorley kills the deer; in return, they let him hunt other animals he may sell.

“Twenty years ago, I used to get excited if I saw three deer at once. I think it’s unusual if I go out now and don’t see 50 to 100 people a night,” he says.

On farms, he claims to have witnessed pits containing 2,000 dead deer. Numerous animals are herded into a ravine and shot at during one annual occasion.

Even though Chorley would like to make money by slaughtering animals, he is more worried about population expansion and despises waste.

One plus one equals two, two plus two equals four. Imagine what it will be like in the next five years if we don’t get it under control. It has become uncontrollable.

John Kelly, a pioneer in the game meat industry and owner of Lenah Game Meats, said he spends more to import deer than other corpses from Chorley.

Kelly states, “We import many tonnes per month. I recently received 500 pounds from Queensland. Wild venison is used in everything we import.

It is legal to shoot fallow deer in Tasmania within certain restrictions, but not to sell their meat. Photograph: Bob Brown
It is legal to shoot fallow deer in Tasmania within certain restrictions, but not to sell their meat. Photograph: Bob Brown
Tasmania’s feral deer damage farm fences and grazing grounds. Photograph: Ben French
Tasmania’s feral deer damage farm fences and grazing grounds. Photograph: Ben French

Kelly acknowledges that commercializing the meat would reduce waste and increase employment, but it would not have a significant impact on the quantity of deer.

“I just took a load of venison worth $16,000. With that money, I could hire someone for a quarter of a year, create jobs locally, produce a high-quality good locally, and assist farmers.

A “micro minority” of recreational shooters, he claims, view deer hunting as “their birthright,” and they have successfully pushed for the continued protection of deer from commercial hunting.

They’ve always had the minister’s ear, Kelly claims. The commercial shooting won’t wipe off the deer population, despite claims to the contrary made by a tiny minority.

In order for the meat shot by his organization to be used more extensively, recreational shooters do not want to sell the meat, according to Donald Riddell, senior vice president of the Sporting Shooters Association in Tasmania. Instead, they want to have “access to commercial butchering.”

It is not a “micro group,” according to Redell, “but hunters generally don’t accept the Kelly idea and haven’t for a long time.”

“A lot of Tasmania’s larger wildlife management hinges on agreements with hunters who use deer as a carrot. These structures are threatened by commercialization.

Deer are also extremely mobile animals, making it challenging to collect a lot of them quickly. Many hunters believe that the commercial business model is disruptive and only helps a few few.

Several inquiries in Tasmania have advocated commercial harvesting. On the quantity of deer, there is broad consensus, although there is disagreement regarding commercial sales.

The quest for commercialization, according to Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox, “is a major distraction.”

It might undercut our efforts to curb the spread of deer, according to Cox. It entrenches and promotes their growth, which is the exact opposite of what it accomplishes. A financial incentive exists for you to introduce additional deer.

The species should be designated as a pest and eradicated, according to the council and the Greens.

The Walls of Jerusalem national park, where evidence of deer invasion has been reported. Photograph: Viktor Posnov/Alamy
The Walls of Jerusalem national park, where evidence of deer invasion has been reported. Photograph: Viktor Posnov/Alamy

In the last 15 years, according to Cox, the deer have spread out of the highlands and are now present everywhere, even the suburbs surrounding Launceston and Hobart.

They have gone from Ben Lomond National Park in the state’s northeast to Freycinet National Park, which is the location of Wineglass Bay. From there, they traveled via Douglas-Apsley National Park. The state’s southernmost island, Bruny, is home to a herd.

They are encroaching on the World Heritage Site, according to Cox. There have been reports of deer droppings and footprints in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, which is northwest of Cradle Mountain National Park.

The state’s Liberal administration unveiled a five-year population management strategy in February.

Three zones have been established throughout the state. Nothing changes in zone 1, which includes central Tasmania. Zone two, which encircles Zone 1, will permit “sustainable hunting techniques.” A “no deer” regulation will be implemented everywhere else.

Although no date has been chosen, there will also be a trial to determine whether deer farmers may potentially offer foods to restaurants.

Jo Palmer, Tasmania’s new minister for primary industries, declined to comment when contacted, but a government spokesman said the protected status was crucial so that “deer may be managed in line with government objectives.”

According to the spokesman, “[The plan] describes a balanced approach to managing wild fallow deer, taking into account the objectives desired by multiple stakeholders, including farmers, forestry professionals, conservationists, recreational hunters, and the general public.

A wild deer in Tasmania. Game producers believe commercialising the sale of the meat would not impact numbers. Photograph: Bob Brown
A wild deer in Tasmania. Game producers believe commercialising the sale of the meat would not impact numbers. Photograph: Bob Brown

According to reports, the government is “clearly focused” on getting rid of deer at the world heritage site and is currently testing “aerial control tactics” in the Walls of Jerusalem national park.

The deer will still remain a protected species under the Nature Conservation Act, according to Cox, who claims that the strategy is inadequate for the job.

And, he continues, “we don’t believe there will be the necessary effort on the ground to eliminate isolated communities.”

Cassy O’Connor, the leader of the Tasmanian Greens, concurs.

The Liberal state administration must treat wild deer as a pest, according to her, if it wants to make a significant difference. “However, the Liberals are keeping the status of deer as a protected species and actively encouraging population increase to provide sport for hunters rather than attempting to manage their numbers.

We are aware that the Liberals find it difficult to hear environmentalists, but we hope they will pay attention to farmers and business owners. The ecosystem and economics of our island need to be protected from the devastation of an out-of-control feral deer population.

This article by Cait Kelly was first published by The Guardian on 16 July 2022. Lead Image: Tasmania’s deer population could balloon from about 100,000 to 1 million by mid-century without active management. Photograph: Bruce Miller/Alamy.


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