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Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Oh deer, what can the matter be? Landholder attitudes to deer management in Queensland

N. A. Finch A and G. S. Baxter B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, Qld 4343, Australia.

B School of Natural & Rural Systems Management, The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, Qld 4343, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Wildlife Research 34(3) 211-217
Submitted: 3 January 2006  Accepted: 20 April 2007   Published: 6 June 2007


Deer are not native to Australia but have been present in the country for more than 150 years. For most of that time they have not been regarded as either an agricultural or environmental pest, but in the last few years there have been calls for their numbers to be reduced. Four species of deer can be found in well established populations in Queensland, mostly occurring on private land. Hence the effectiveness of any management of deer as pests will be heavily influenced by the actions of the land owners. This paper reports on a survey of the attitudes of landholders towards deer on their properties. A total of 2621 surveys was mailed to landowners and managers in regions known to support wild deer in Queensland. Of the 28.3% of surveys returned, over 75% of respondents conducted some form of primary production on their land and 65% of these had deer on their properties at least some of the time. Responses to questions were mostly uniform throughout the state, with over 50% of respondents wanting the deer population to stay at current levels or increase. Only 5% of respondents supported poisoning as a management strategy, with 17% supporting trapping. Recreational hunting and game-meat harvesting were favoured management options, with 42% and 51% support respectively. Only 25% of respondents thought wild deer caused environmental damage and 30% thought wild deer caused agricultural damage, with most associating wild deer as a less significant pest than those species already declared under state legislation. Of those surveyed, 56% agreed with the statement ‘It is important to maintain wild deer populations for future generations to enjoy’. The spread of deer in Australia is of increasing concern to ecologists, and there have been calls for action to reduce their numbers on private and public land. The results of this survey imply that a significant proportion of Queensland landholders would resist legislation aimed at managing deer as a pest in areas with long-established wild deer populations.


This study was funded by the Australian Deer Association Queensland Branch, who also assisted with selection of survey recipient names and addresses. We also thank all the landholders and managers who responded to the survey. Dr David Peacock, South Australian Department of Water, Land & Biodiversity Conservation provided details of a survey he conducted in that state.


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