The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage developed a feed structure, with the aim of aggregating feral goats and deer to improve the efficiency of control programs. They trialled the structure in combination with commercially available salt blocks and oats to attract feral goats and deer to set locations in forested study areas. The feed structure exploits differences in the sizes and shapes of the feet of native herbivores (kangaroos and wallabies) to prevent them accessing the food, whilst making it accessible to feral goats and deer.
The feed structure was highly target-specific, with feral goats freely able to access salt blocks, whilst non-target native species were excluded. Other introduced ungulate species, such as fallow deer and red deer, successfully accessed the food in the feed structure, but at considerably lower rates than feral goats. The feed structure that is effective for feral goats is now commercially available.
This project will build on the foundational research and development by NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to refine the feed structure so that feral deer can readily use the feed structures. This project will test the refined structure (the Deer Aggregator, DA) in areas with high densities of kangaroos and possums and feral fallow or red deer.
Develop an effective deer aggregator that is accessible to feral deer and able to exclude non-target native animals.
This project received funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment
February 2021 update:
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.
August 2020 update:
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.
February 2020 update:
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.
August 2019 update:
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.
February 2019 update:
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.