Start date: 1 July 2018
Completion date: 30 April 2021
Project code: P01-T-001
Species: Feral deer
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Deer cause over $90 million in damage to Australian communities and producers each year. Therefore, building on foundational work by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the project team designed and tested a refined feed structure that attracts feral deer and excludes non-target native animals.
It is a cost-effective tool for attracting deer to a specific location, providing a focal point for monitoring, ground shooting or large-scale trapping. In future, it may help to deliver toxic baits safely. It will also be useful in areas where deer numbers are low or shooting is limited, such as peri-urban areas.
The project is currently in the phase of large-scale field testing to assess the deer aggregators use by deer, its reliability to exclude non-target species and the device”s durability. Interactions recorded with non-target species are continuing to inform design improvements and develop operational guidelines.
The project has built and tested many aggregator prototypes, with the latest being prepared for large scale field testing. Each iteration has added features, improved functionality and reliability of the device. The final prototype is being constructed for large scale testing in the field. 45 aggregators have now been produced with two fully functioning prototypes being trialed with a range of feed types (grains) and assessed using motion sensor cameras. Initial testing with feral deer aggregators suggests a mixed feed of oats and lupins has the greatest effect in attract feral deer. The trial will inform final design improvements, after which they will be re-made and tested again. The deployment of aggregators in the South East will fast track the collection of data on how these devices will interact with feral deer as well as native species. The aggregators are deployed along key transit routes for feral deer, making optimal locations.
Previous trials have shown that both red and fallow deer are capable of interacting with the device for the intended effect. No toxins will be trialled in this project.
The aggregator design was finalised and is now ready for production to allow large scale field testing. During production further field sites will be sourced which have high densities of feral deer, kangaroos, possums and other species which may interact with the aggregator. The field testing will allow further information to be gathered on aggregator durability and interactions with feral deer, which will inform final refinement of the prototype.
Trials of the latest prototype Deer Aggregator (DA) began in April 2019, when feral deer spend more time in larger groups, increasing effectiveness of the trials. Newly integrated features fine-tuned for large scale field testing have been implemented.
The locations for the trial of the prototype DA were selected by Natural Resource Management (NRM) staff from three regions in SA. A range of feed types (grains) will also be trialed and assessed using motion cameras. No toxins will be trialed in this project. As with previous trials, these will inform design improvements which will be tested again.
NSW Local Land Services (LLS) staff from two regions have expressed interest in trialing DAs on four deer species. To prepare for these trials, potential field sites were monitored using simplified PVC feeders and motion cameras to assess species present and their abundance. The trials also provide data on how different species interact with the feeders, for DA prototype development.
In late 2018, two industrial design companies were contracted to brainstorm ideas for the design of the deer aggregator. Design criteria were that the aggregators should be cheap, preferably made from material or parts that are readily accessible, simple, lightweight and they should meet WH&S requirements. Several design ideas were submitted by the two companies. The project team selected one design to develop further for the trial, with the first prototype to be built before the end of April 2019.
Field sites are being considered for testing the first prototype of the aggregator.