The Conservation and Pest Management (CPM) program is set to expand significantly over the next few years, following a 2016 commitment from the Victorian Government to continue its support for the program.
Along with several new programs being explored, the expansion of the Alpine National Park deer control operation is a prime example of the program’s progress. SSAA Victoria’s CPM Manager Rhys Coote said the expansion could allow accredited members to play an even greater role in conservation.
“Our volunteer operators have been working closely with Parks Victoria and volunteers from Australian Deer Association (ADA) in key areas of the park for some time,” he said. “Now the program is expanding to new areas of the park under a three-year trial.”
The trial was established to investigate whether ground shooting could be used to mitigate deer impacts on high-value assets, including Alpine peatlands in selected areas of the Alpine National Park. Two sites were selected for the trial – the Bogong High Plains in the Kiewa Murray Park Area and the Howitt-Wellington Plains in the foothills and southern alps park area.
“The Bogong High Plains and the Howitt–Wellington Plains were selected as the most appropriate areas for implementing the deer control trial,” said Roger Fenwick, Parks Victoria’s Acting Regional Director Eastern Victoria. “The two trial areas are largely above 1200m elevation, have consistency in landscape form, contain a range of high-value alpine, sub-alpine and montane ecological communities and have a relatively high abundance and density of deer.
“A variety of expert stakeholders were consulted in the identification of the trial areas including the University of Melbourne, the Arthur Rylah Institute, ADA, SSAA, Game Management Authority and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.”
Recreational hunting is permitted at Howitt-Wellington Plains during open season. Parks Victoria and SSAA Victoria will ensure recreational hunters are not disadvantaged as a result of the trial, which is set to complement the work hunters are already doing.
“The first stage of the trial at Howitt-Wellington Plains will consist of night operations only,” Rhys said. “Hunting of deer at night is illegal for recreational hunters. Certain permits and approvals are in place to allow the CPM operators to hunt under these conditions. The first operation will commence during the annual closed season and when the public is not allowed in the park.”
Volunteer operators will spotlight on-foot using thermal and nightvision equipment, adopt static positions or spotlight from inside a vehicle during the operation.
“These methods have proven to be the most productive in number of deer dispatched and the number of deer seen, given that many of these animals are nocturnal,” Rhys said. “This information has prevoiously been vital in positioning hunters in key areas where we know there are deer.”
SSAA Victoria encourages its members to hunt in these areas that have high deer populations to help reduce the impact deer are having on sensitive ecosystems like the Alpine Peatlands.