Cost-effective management of wild deer


Wild deer are present in all Australian states and territories and are causing increasing agricultural, environmental and social impacts. The six species of deer occupy a wide variety of habitats including rangeland (chital deer), agricultural (fallow deer), plantation forests (sambar deer and red deer), and montane forest (sambar deer).  

Land managers have started to use aerial shooting, ground shooting and exclusion fencing to manage wild deer, but the cost-effectiveness and appropriateness of these methods have not been evaluated. Best-practice guidelines for managing wild deer were identified as a priority need at the 2016 National Wild Deer Management Workshop.  

This five-year project will provide land managers with the tools and expertise required to cost-effectively manage wild deer. The project will provide national leadership through the coordination of existing and planned deer management programs in QLD, NSW, VIC and TAS.   




This project has four key objectives: 

  1. In collaboration with the associated organisations, establish demonstration sites at which on-ground management, research and training will occur in NSW, QLD, VIC and TAS. 
  2. Evaluate the costs and efficacy of the main control tools (i.e. aerial shooting and ground shooting) at demonstration sites, supported by population modelling to assess longer-term impacts of control on deer populations. 
  3. Disseminate knowledge widely through: field days at demonstration sites; presentations at workshops, symposia and conferences; media releases; articles in peer-reviewed journals; and best-practice guidelines available from the PestSmart website. 
  4. Build technical and research capacity in wild deer management by up-skilling research and technical staff involved in vertebrate pest management and by training post-graduate students. 

Project Leader

Dr Dave Forsyth
Project Team
  • Dr Dave Forsyth, NSW DPI
  • Dr Andrew Bengsen, NSW DPI 
  • Troy Crittle, NSW DPI 
  • Dr Tony Pople, QDAF 
  • Michael Brennan, QDAF 
  • Matt Amos, QDAF 
  • Dr Dave Ramsey, VIC DELWP 
  • Richard Duncan, UC 
  • Bronwyn Cameron, NSW North West LLS 
  • Mal Leeson, NSW Central Tablelands LLS 
  • Ashley Blokland, Charters Towers Regional Council 
  • Elaine Thomas, Parks Victoria 
  • Sally Bryant, Tasmanian Land Conservancy 
  • Jordan Hampton, Ecotone Wildlife Veterinary Services 
Project Partners
  • New South Wales Department of Primary Industries  (NSW DPI)
  • Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF)
  • University of Canberra 
  • Tasmanian Land Conservancy
  • Ecotone Wildlife Vet Services
  • eSYS
  • Chatered Towers Regional Council


February 2019 update: 

Field research sites to assess the effectiveness of aerial shooting of wild deer have been established in North Queensland (chital deer), the New South Wales (fallow deer).  

The project team has used helicopter mark-recapture distance sampling to estimate the abundance of deer at the field sites, prior to aerial shooting being conducted. Non-treatment sites were also surveyed using this method in the two New South Wales sites and using a combination of aerial and ground surveys in North Queensland.  

This survey method has provided robust estimates of abundance at acceptable cost. 

The team has assessed the welfare outcomes of aerial shooting of chital deer in North Queensland and have begun to assess the welfare outcomes of ground shooting of rusa deer in New South Wales.  

During aerial shooting operations conducted for chital deer (North Queensland) and fallow deer (New South Wales), and ground shooting operations for rusa deer (New South Wales), blood samples have been collected that are being analysed by Jose Luis Alfredo Huaman Torres (PhD candidate, La Trobe University) as part of the project looking at the role of wild deer in the transmission of diseases of livestock.  

A journal article has been published in PLOSone showing how many animals need to be sampled in assessments of animal welfare outcomes to provide robust estimates of the frequency of adverse events such as wounding during shooting operations. They are using this work to inform our assessments of the welfare outcomes of aerial and ground shooting of deer.  

Research papers: 

Hampton, J. O., MacKenzie, D. I., & Forsyth, D. M. (2019). How many to sample? Statistical guidelines for monitoring animal welfare outcomes. PloS one, 14(1), e0211417.  

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