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Hunters critical of Grampians aerial deer and goat culling

Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park

By Colin MacGillivray
Hunting advocacy groups have questioned the justification for an aerial deer and goat-shooting program being carried out in Grampians national and Black Range state parks.
The aerial shooting, which began on Saturday and will continue until Friday, forms part of a three-year Parks Victoria conservation program.
Funded through a $1.8-million state government Biodiversity Response Planning grant, Parks Victoria said the program aimed to protect Aboriginal rock art and threatened native vegetation by reducing populations of weeds, rabbits, deer and feral goats.
Grampians National Park is home to more than 800 native plant species, a wide range of wildlife and about 90 percent of known Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia.
Parks Victoria ranger team leader Mike Stevens said populations of deer and feral goats would be controlled in a 47,000-hectare area with an integrated shooting program involving accredited volunteer shooters, park rangers, and professional aerial shooting crews.
“Parks Victoria regularly undertakes dedicated conservation programs, designed to contribute to habitat restoration or predator management across all its parks,” he said.
“In the Grampians National Park and Black Range State Park we are targeting deer and feral goats, which are threatening the amazing biodiversity of the landscape and impacting on important Aboriginal cultural sites.”
But, Australian Deer Association, ADA, executive officer Barry Howlett said Parks Victoria had not adequately justified its shooting program.
“There are really good criteria for when you do wildlife control and they include lots of monitoring and a good understanding of what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.
“It’s not just from a ‘getting results’ point of view, but also from a ‘proper spending of resources’ point of view.
“We’re not seeing any of that.”
Mr Howlett said the ADA had concerns about Parks Victoria’s claims that aerial shooting had been proven effective in a trial in eastern Victoria and that the control program would help preserve Aboriginal rock art.
“Parks Victoria has not released any data that shows that is the case. I’m not saying it’s not the case, but they haven’t proven it effective,” he said.
“Deer are getting blamed for just about everything. Damaging rock art is probably going a bit too far.”
Better planning
Mr Howlett said the ADA had ‘no philosophical objection’ to deer population control, but wanted to see a more carefully planned operation.
“We want to see them set targets for how many deer they’re going to take over a certain period and have follow-up monitoring so we can see if it was a success or a failure,” he said.
Parks Victoria environment and conservation senior analyst Ben Fahey said aerial shooting was vital to access remote areas, and data that supported its use would be released publicly.
“Aerial programs are an important part of the mix when it comes to controlling these animals in inaccessible terrain and over large areas,” he said.
“In Alpine National Park during May, more than 130 deer were shot by professional aerial marksman in just over 18 hours of aerial shooting time.
“This adds to the 119 deer shot in the first stage of the trial in October, equating to a deer about every eight minutes during the course of the trial.
“Data obtained during the Alpine National Park program is being analysed and will be released publicly when complete.”
Mr Fahey also said damage to Aboriginal rock art was caused by feral goats, not deer.
“Park rangers and rock art specialists have found feral goats damaging rock art shelters by rubbing against the sandstone and camping in caves, trampling and eroding ancient surface archaeological deposits,” he said. “Protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage is a priority. This damage is not being attributed to deer.”
Sporting Shooters Association of Australia hunting development manager David Laird also criticised the use of aerial culling, calling it expensive and wasteful.
“We agree that deer and goats can have a negative impact on sensitive park areas but sending in the choppers and leaving the carcasses for wild dogs should be the last resort,” he said.
Mr Stevens said access to some areas of the Grampians and Black Range parks might be temporarily restricted and people might hear gunshots while the conservation program was underway.
Any park restrictions will be clearly signposted at access points, with information about temporary closures available for visitors from the Brambuk visitor centre in Halls Gap, on Parks Victoria website, and by calling 13 1963.

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Posted on Jun 26 2019

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