Deer sightings are becoming more frequent around the Mount Alexander area, fueling concerns about a proposed statewide management plan for the animals.
The Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests say there have recently been reports of deer in areas around Castlemaine including Fryers Forest, Spring Gully, Muckleford and Chewton.
Populations of sanbar, fallow, red and hog deer are growing and spreading to new areas across the state, according to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
However, the department believes it is not feasible to eradicate them all using available control methods. It last month called for public submissions on a plan to instead minimise the damage deer do by containing them to their current ranges.
The FOTBIF has criticised the draft plan, saying it is “clearly designed to expand the amount of public land available to recreational hunters.”
The Victorian National Parks Association was also critical, with the group’s Phil Ingamells saying recreational hunting could contribute to, but not solve, the deer problem.
“We need a ramped-up range of control methods applied strategically across all land tenures. That will involve a fair dinkum strategy with a significant contribution from professional pest controllers, as well as the introduction of a targeted deliverable bait for deer, and research into possible biological controls,” he said.
The draft plan did not set out where the zones would be located but did recommend a number of different ones be established for deer containment, eradication and prevention, some of which could involve recreational hunting.
The report also floated zones to protect environmental, agricultural, social or cultural areas as well as ones exclusively for economic benefits including hunting.
Australian Deer Association executive officer Barry Howlett said his group was broadly supportive of the draft plan. He said the group’s preference in areas with low deer populations, including around Bendigo and Castlemaine, was to eradicate them before large numbers were established.
“That’s what this plan proposes,” he said.
In other parts of the state, where eradication was not feasible, Mr Howlett said deer needed to be managed in a way suitable to the whole community.
The Australian Deer Association has its own concerns about DELWP’s plan, with Mr Howlett saying it was unclear how it would would be funded and implemented.
“They are big questions post-election. It’s one thing to have a strategy. It’s another thing to have people accountable for it and have funding attached to it,” he said.
A date for the release of the strategy is still to be finalised and an update on progress is expected in February 2019.
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