Why are deer an issue?

Deer were one of the many animals that were introduced to Australia by the Acclimatisation Society in the 1800s for the purpose of hunting.

Additional deer have entered into the environment since then, assisted by escapes and releases from deer farming. Deer species currently occupy around 37% of Victoria and the increasing population of deer species within Yarra Ranges area is having a significant impact on environmental values and agricultural production, not to mention the effect on private gardens.

Whilst currently protected on public land under the Wildlife Act as a Game species, they are unprotected on private land where they frequently cause damage to plants and property.


Impacts on the environment

Deer compete with native animals and with farmed animals for feed; they modify habitat; may spread diseases, pathogens and weed seeds; they alter water quality; can cause erosion and compaction of soils; and may also change plant communities through selective browsing. These all have a significant impact on our environment and its biodiversity. The impacts of deer are widespread and extremely concerning.

In areas of Yarra Ranges, deer are:

  • Over-browsing and causing the destruction of ground and mid-storey vegetation. This is significantly reducing the presence of native plant species, including several threatened species and are significantly reducing habitat conditions for critically-endangered animals like the Helmeted Honeyeater.
  • Destroying saplings and seriously damaging tree health by rubbing against tree trunks causing ringbark.
  • Damaging waterways with their hard hooves and wallowing, which is causing erosion and reducing water quality. Waterways can also be harmed by deer droppings, which can contain the cryptosporidium parasite. This parasite can be harmful for humans.

Currently, public resources are not available at the scale required to control deer across the entire landscape and so far, efforts are being targeted towards key conservation assets.


Impacts on the community

Deer are fast becoming one of the most significant threats faced by residents, agriculturalists, natural bushland managers and all tiers of government.

Their size and mobility are an issue, as they can easily access most gardens and crops, along with increasing collision risks on roads – particularly at night, when visibility is poor.

In Yarra Ranges, deer can cause damage to vineyards, orchards and rural grazing livelihoods. Fences can be damaged, along with crops and vines, which has a significant impact on agribusinesses.

Deer are large animals that can move quickly – and can cause significant damage to vehicles if involved in a car accident. 

Deer management and control

In late 2020, the State Government released a new Victorian Deer Control Strategy. 

Currently the options to reduce deer impact in home gardens, farms and bushland include:

  • Fencing
  • Restricting access to water
  • Vegetation management to reduce harbour
  • Deterrents
  • Shooting

Deer-proof fencing is expensive and restricts native animal movement generally and therefore is not ideal in many situations, except smaller exclusion zones.

The State Government has developed a localised Peri-Urban Melbourne Deer Control Plan, to recognise and address the impacts of deer in areas such as Yarra Ranges.

Council is a stakeholder in this process working with government departments to manage the impacts of deer and received grant funding for deer control in our municipality in a targeted project area.

What can landowners do?

Managing deer on private land can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to stop deer wandering onto your property or remove them.

To minimise impacts from deer, landowners can:

  • Consider deer exclusion fencing, to stop them gaining access
  • Survey your land for signs of deer impacts and record it. You can use the DeerScan app to record sightings and damage. The data from this app is accessed by Councils to form a clear picture of where deer are congregating and moving over the seasons, including how numbers are changing over time. This data is crucial for our work and advocacy to State Government agencies for more support on deer issues.
  • Contact Council, your local Landcare group or a deer action group to find fencing contractors, professional deer controllers/harvesters and game meat processors, who can assist with removing deer
  • Make a private agreement to manage deer impacts on land by using a professional deer harvesting contractor on a regular basis, particularly during times where agricultural activities (such as crop growing) requires protection
  • Make a private agreement to manage deer impacts on land by using a responsible volunteer deer shooter on a regular basis to reduce numbers and impact
  • Speak with neighbours to form or join a local deer action group.

What is Council doing to help manage deer?

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) is the managing authority for wildlife in Victoria, including deer.

In 2019, DEECA provided funding to work on local deer management under its Biodiversity Response Planning Grant. In 2021, more funding was provided to Council through DEECA’s Peri-Urban Weed Management Partnership Initiative.

Council is delivering a DEECA-funded pilot deer control program, focusing on threats to biodiversity along the Yellingbo corridor – the significant remaining habitat for the Helmeted Honeyeater and the lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.

As part of this pilot program, Council is working to reduce deer numbers on public and private land, using professional deer controllers. This work will also focus on removing invasive weed species which can damage habitats of native wildlife.

We’re also working with Knox Council, Parks Victoria, DEECA and community groups to reduce deer numbers in areas across the Dandenongs, with more programs to commence across Yarra Ranges in coming months. All deer removal work involves working closely with our contractors, community members and Victoria Police, with Council ensuring all procedures are followed.

Council is also developing a Nature Plan, to ensure evidence-based decisions are made to all matters relating to preserving and enhancing local biodiversity.

Importantly, we’re also supporting and advocating for more research into deer, to assist all land managers with more understanding of deer population density, dynamics and movement patterns. We’re hoping more research will result in alternative and supplementary control measures, but numerous approaches are needed to have impact on deer numbers and protect the local environment.

Yarra Ranges staff participate in the Melbourne Eastern Region Deer Network and Victorian Deer Control Community Network – which involves many Local Governments and related bodies such as Landcare and Melbourne Water. These groups are working to lobby the State Government for more action in the region and further funding – including a review of the Wildlife Act 1975 to change the protected game status afforded to deer.

Advice and support

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA)  is the managing authority for wildlife in Victoria, including deer.

Council employs a Deer Program Officer and Biodiversity Conservation Coordinator who can provide specific advice on how to manage deer on your property or how to work with your neighbours to control deer in the local area.

Contact us on 1300 368 333 or at if you have any questions about Council’s work in this space.

For more information about deer management, we suggest contacting Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) on 136 186 or visit their website. 

Further resources

The State Government has prepared a Victorian Deer Strategy, which outlines the issues deer pose and what's being done in this space.

Council has produced a Deer Management booklet, which also contains useful information.


How to use FeralScan

FeralScan is a community pest animal recording and management tool, where you can record pest animal activity locally. Find out more on the  FeralScan website.

Watch the How to Use FeralScan video to learn more:



iNaturalist is an easy-to-use citizen science tool that enables you to contribute sightings of flora and fauna. It can be accessed via an app on your photo or the website. Council can easily search iNaturalist for any deer sightings made in the Yarra Ranges area to gain an understanding of distribution and species.