Above Looking at an area of burnt forest in Yinnar South that is often used by deer.
Gippsland Intrepid Landcare (GIL) is a group that provides opportunities for people between the ages of 18 and 40 to get involved in Landcare in Gippsland.
In 2019 GIL received funding from Agriculture Victoria to undertake a deer monitoring project. We wanted to make young people aware of how bad deer are for Gippsland’s environment. We figured by getting young people out into the bush and assisting with deer monitoring we could show them how much havoc deer were causing, creating advocates for better deer control and future deer managers. We also wanted to promote the issue of deer on social media through Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
We developed a promotional campaign about experiencing the wilds of Gippsland to attract our participants.
Our posters and Facebook posts used imagery and text that suggested escape, adventure, and wilderness.
The target audience was university students from Melbourne and Gippsland, so we held the events on weekdays during the university calendar. Our big pre-COVID-19 dreams were to run three monitoring events across Gippsland during 2020 in Trafalgar, Yinnar and in Woodside. However, COVID-19 restrictions meant we had to cancel the Woodside event and cap the number of people who could attend the Yinnar event.
Strzelecki hike reveals red and fallow deer
Our first event was the Magic Strzelecki Foothills Rainforest Hike held in February 2020. We got super lucky with perfect weather to head into the misty Strzelecki rainforest to set up trail cameras to monitor deer at a private property behind Trafalgar.
Lead by the legendary Shannon Dwyer from Gippsland Water and pest and wildlife management professional Brad Blake, the 25 participants cruised over waterfalls and under massive trees ferns to see the impact feral deer are having on the bush and learn about management of deer in the area.
The 25 participants cruised over waterfalls and under massive tree ferns to see the impact feral deer are having on the bush and learn about management of deer in the area.
Some patches had been absolutely trashed by deer and the trails they had created through the bush. Participants learnt how to set up wildlife monitoring cameras and were excited about what they might record.
The hike was a great social day with lots of new friends being made including several people who had made the trip from Melbourne. As this event was before COVID-19 we were able to share lunch together – a vegan chocolate cake and a bucket of fresh-picked apples were a hit. When the wildlife monitoring cameras were retrieved a month later, we found both red deer and fallow deer at the site.
Group records sambar deer at Yinnar South
Our second event held in May 2020 was into tallest tree country – a deer monitoring day at Yinnar South. We trudged along muddy long tracks, between bursts of sun and drizzling rain to learn all about deer. COVID-19 restrictions meant the event was capped at 10 people, giving the group a great opportunity to chat and bond with one another during the day.
Experts Matt Bowler and Brad Blake again shared their stories and knowledge about the negative impact of deer on the bush and tips on how to find them. We found lots of evidence of deer, including deer tracks and broken branches on trails in areas likely to be regular tracks for deer. We installed wildlife cameras to monitor deer so we could enter our findings into DeerScan.
GIL committee members collected the cameras in December 2020. Unfortunately, several of the cameras were stolen – we’d had to leave them out longer than intended due to lockdowns – but we still managed to capture footage of sambar deer at the site.
Despite the project being disjointed and the timelines blown out by COVID-19 the events were still a success. Ten wildlife cameras were set up (two were stolen). GIL gained two new committee members and hosted 30 young people who were introduced to five deer experts in the field. These young people are now engaged, educated and informed about the damage deer are doing to the environment.
Damage Control, a deer monitoring documentary about the project, has been produced and can be viewed on the GIL website. We have reached more than 2000 people on social media with posts about the issue of deer. Stories about the events and the deer problem were featured on WIN news, ABC Gippsland and the Sentinel Times.
Kathleen Brack is a co-founder of Gippsland Intrepid Landcare. She now sits on the sidelines and watches the committee in action. For more information visit www.gippslandintrepid.com