Hunting in parks no job for amateurs
Amateur deer hunters are calling for more access to our national parks, claiming they would help control the damage deer cause and bolster regional economies.
But would they?
Firstly, let's look at the economic benefits. Deer hunters quote a study showing they bring about $439 million into the economy each year, and create about 3500 jobs.
But the total economic contribution made by nature-based tourism in Victoria is vastly bigger - around $7.4 billion. This economic powerhouse creates more than 70,000 jobs and would not exist without the huge numbers of visitors that are drawn to our national parks.
What would happen if we gave over more park areas to hunting?
Well, we'd see more 'armed campgrounds' - camping areas full of camouflaged, gun-carrying hunters, scaring families and tourists hoping for a relaxing park visit, and compromising their safety.
That could hurt regional economies.
Hunters already have access to very large areas of public land, including sections of nine national parks and reserves in eastern Victoria. They don't need more.
Containing the damage
And do recreational hunters help contain the damage deer cause to our parks?
Most amateur hunters chase a well-antlered stag - they're after a trophy for their wall. Once that big stag has been taken from the general deer population it is soon replaced by a young buck, and the females continue to breed.
That's one reason why, despite extensive amateur hunting across Victoria, deer populations continue to grow and spread. The Australian Deer Association puts Victoria's deer population in the high hundreds of thousands, possibly even up to one million.
The damage deer are causing to our finest national parks is considerable, and it's growing.
Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning agree that deer (like any pest species) can only be managed through strategic programs with clear objectives, and the funding and expertise needed to implement those programs. This is no job for amateurs.