Report feral deer

Deer are not native to Australia and are considered a pest animal due to the harm they cause to our natural environment.

The Invasive Species Council, a not-for-profit organisation that monitors feral animal species in Australia, recently declared feral deer Australia’s worst emerging pest animal problem 


Types of deer in the MidCoast

Currently, four species of deer have established populations in the MidCoast region:

  • sambar deer (Rusa unicolor)
  • rusa deer (Rusa timorensis)
  • fallow deer (Dama dama)
  • red deer (Cervus elaphus)

Rusa deer are the most widespread and abundant of the deer species in the MidCoast. Red deer are widespread, but at relatively low density. Fallow deer are increasing in numbers and occur mostly in the south-eastern parts of the LGA. Sambar deer are mostly concentrated in the Coopernook area.

Check out the online deer identification guide to learn more about each species and how to identify them.

What to do if you see a deer

Feral deer should never be approached or fed by people as they are large, wild animals and are unpredictable. Stags can be particularly aggressive during their breeding season, which varies between the species.

If you see deer on your property, go to the Hunter Local Land Services landholder fact sheet(PDF, 262KB). You can also read the Hunter Regional Pest Plan. Every landowner has a duty under the Biosecurity Act to prevent or eliminate and then minimise the risks associated with feral pest animals, including feral deer.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) website has information on managing feral deer on private and public lands in NSW. 

Deer control programs

To reduce the negative effects that feral deer have on people and the environment, MidCoast Council has partnered with Hunter Local Land Services, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and local landholders to deliver a deer control program.

The deer control program includes:

  • Studies of deer populations and their impacts
  • Support for deer research
  • Education, workshops and landholder engagement
  • Collaborations with key stakeholders
  • Preparation of a deer management plan
  • Targeted trapping and ground and aerial shooting

The MidCoast deer control program aims to eradicate the population of Sambar deer from the Coopernook area and control the impacts of other feral deer species on community, environmental and agricultural assets.

Dead or injured deer

If you see an injured feral deer, you can report it to Council on (02) 7955 7777 or [email protected].  We will try to identify and work with the property owner or the RSPCA to manage the animal.

Never approach an injured deer. They can be very unpredictable and dangerous, especially if injured or sick.

Dead deer on Council property can be reported by calling (02) 7955 7777 or e-mail [email protected] for removal. Please note, we cannot assist with removal or disposal of dead deer on private property. 

Impacts on environment

Impact on threatened flora and fauna

Feral deer are listed by the NSW Government as a pest animal. They now fall into the same category as feral pigs, wild rabbits and foxes under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015.

Feral deer alter plant communities and the habitat of native wildlife by grazing and impacting the soil structure. Impacts are particularly significant in sensitive habitats such as coastal saltmarsh, littoral rainforest and riparian habitats.

Feral deer graze and trample the habitat of threatened species. Threatened plants such as Noah’s False Chickweed (Lindernia alsinoides), Trailing Woodruff (Asperula asthenes) and Magenta Lilly Pilly (Syzygium paniculatum). They also spread weed species into natural environments.

Male deer cause substantial damage to native trees and shrubs by antler rubbing, which can kill native plants by ringbarking.

Feral deer alter the structure and environmental conditions of the habitat of threatened animals in the MidCoast. By reducing the vegetation cover, some animals can be more at risk from predation or exposure. This can impact species such as long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), broad-toothed rat (Mastacomys fuscus), eastern chestnut mouse (Psuedomys gracilicaudatus), giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus) and rufous scrub-bird (Atrichornis rufescens).

Impact on waterways

Feral deer, with their hard hooves, compact soil and impact water quality. They tend to create trails where the exposed soil can be washed into waterways. Male deer scrape and mark the ground, which can pollute creeks and rivers. The droppings of feral deer cause nutrient changes to soils and can be washed into waterways, increasing the risk of algal blooms. Water pollution can impact aquatic ecosystems and the plants and animals that rely on clean, clear water.

Impact on Aboriginal culture

Aboriginal cultural heritage values are at risk from the impacts of deer. Deer can compact and damage native plants and degrade, compact or erode important Aboriginal cultural sites.

Impact on agriculture

Feral deer damage farm fences and invade crops. They also compete with livestock for food and they harbour and spread significant livestock diseases. Feral deer also cause damage and erosion around dams and creeks.

Did you know? Feral deer can eat up to 3.6 times as much as a sheep!

It is estimated that feral deer cost the NSW economy tens of millions of dollars annually.

Impact on urban and peri-urban areas

On the MidCoast, feral deer are increasingly present in urban areas as their populations expand and grow. Feral deer graze on lawns, landscaping, flower beds and vegetable gardens. Feral deer cause damage to community spaces such as cemeteries and parks.

Due to their large size and their feeding and movement patterns, feral deer are a substantial risk to life and property through vehicle strikes and near-miss accidents.

Feral deer are also known to attack and injure people when they are defending their young or escaping confinement. 

Report illegal hunting

Feral deer controls must be undertaken in accordance with all legal requirements.

Illegal hunting places people and their property at risk and tarnishes the reputation of ethical and responsible hunters and deer control personnel.

Please report illegal hunting to the NSW Department of Primary Industries

If you see or hear suspicious activity including illegal shooting in operation, please call the police. If you believe you are in danger, call triple zero (000).