Thermal imaging puts heat on feral deer

December 3 2021 - 7:30am
PIRSA National Deer Management Coordinator Dr Annelise Wiebkin speaks with landholders involved in feral deer control at a recent dinner hosted by the Limestone Coast Landscape Board.

New state-of-the-art thermal camera technology is helping to reduce the damage feral deer cause to Australia's agricultural businesses and environment.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said thermal cameras have been used to count feral deer from helicopters for several years but now these cameras can assist aerial culls in real time.

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"Feral deer are a serious environmental pest and often hide in bushland during the day making them difficult to spot and cull their numbers," Mr Littleproud said.

"They're spreading into new areas each year-eating pastures and crops, damaging native habitats and fences, and becoming a major hazard on roads.

"Thermal-assisted aerial culling in vegetated areas adds a new tool to the suite of management aerial options to tackle the growing feral deer problem.

"It is also a promising option for assisting with eradication of small satellite populations that are sparsely scattered under dense canopies."

The Australian Government funded a recent successful trial of thermal-assisted aerial control of fallow and red deer in the Limestone Coast region of SA.

SA Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said the two-and-a-half-day trial on farming properties sought to remove remaining feral deer 10 days after a traditional (visual) aerial cull.

"The high-resolution thermal video enables feral deer to be easily recognisable from other large warm bodied wildlife such as kangaroos, or livestock such as sheep and cattle," Mr Basham said.

"The trial was delivered by the National Deer Management Coordinator project under the guidance of the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions."

Australia's first National Deer Management Coordinator Annelise Wiebkin, who is coordinating measures to tackle feral deer, said the trial yielded promising results.

"We found many more feral deer than expected hiding in bushland canopies using thermal-assisted aerial surveying," Dr Wiebkin said.

"The trial found that most feral deer could be systematically removed, reducing impacts and opportunity for them to persist and learn to avoid this new culling method."

For more information about development of the draft National Feral Deer Action Plan, go to feraldeerplan.org.au.

Fast Facts:

  • The Australian Government is providing up to $550,000 over 2 years towards the National Deer Management Coordinator, through the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.
  • The position is hosted through the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia.
  • A 2019 survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics found that land managers spend an average of $2,627 per year per property on feral deer control activities, up from $2,218 in 2016.

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