The NSW Government is considering giving all gun licence holders in the state the right to cull wild deer populations on private property in a bid to reduce herd numbers.
Under current rules, a game hunting licence is needed to shoot deer — with some exceptions.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall says there are ‘‘a number of options on the table to manage the state’s increasing deer population, including removing the game status of deer’’.
‘‘The deer population has exploded over the last 10 years and the current policy settings limit the ability of landholders and farmers to effectively manage the species,’’ Mr Marshall said.
‘‘Deer pose a particular problem during drought, and this government will do what it can to assist farmers through these incredibly tough times.’’
The news received support from the Invasive Species Council, with chief executive Andrew Cox saying deer are now in ‘‘plague numbers’’ throughout most of NSW.
‘‘Right now you need a special game hunting licence to shoot deer in NSW, but if you want to control other feral animals such as rabbits, foxes, feral goats and pigs all you need is a gun licence,’’ Mr Cox said.
‘‘It’s time to bring the control of feral deer, now in plague-proportions in NSW, into line with other damaging feral animals.’’
NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Robert Borsak supports a regulation change, but will not back deer being declared a pest in circumstances where farmers would be compelled to eradicate or be fined.
He said deer hunting must be done humanely, and the culled animals should be used either for pet food or human consumption.
‘‘They should not be wasted, it’s the healthiest and cleanest meat imaginable,’’ Mr Borsak said.
The NSW Government in November suspended some deer hunting regulations to help landowners struggling with the deer population and drought.
The three-year change removed some rules, allowing appropriate licence holders to target all species of deer year-round, use a spotlight, aircraft, watercraft or motor vehicle to hunt deer on private land, and use a bait, lure or decoy to attract deer.
Wild deer were found in 17 per cent of NSW as of 2016, up from eight per cent in 2009.
Deer can damage fences and native plants, erode water quality, make it harder to manage livestock disease and compete with livestock and native animals for food and water, according to NSW DPI.