Deer in the TWWHA?

Tasmania specific bushwalking discussion.
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Tasmania specific bushwalking discussion. Please avoid publishing details of access to sensitive areas with no tracks.

Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby sloz » Thu 15 Apr, 2021 8:10 am

There was a new citizen science project launched in March 2021, calling on the Tasmanian public to download a new deer spotting app in order to help track the distribution of deer in Tasmania.

It made me wonder whether any of you have seen any deer in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area?
My impression was that they were constrained to the central plateau, the midlands and the east coast, but it appears their population is on the rise and their area of habitation growing.

You can help by participating in this project by downloading the ap on the following page:

https://invasives.org.au/our-work/feral-animals/feral-deer/feral-deer-in-tasmania/tassie-deer-spotters/

From the link above.

"The number and distribution of fallow deer in Tasmania is on the rise, and they are starting to turn up in sensitive conservation areas, including within the globally important Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Imported from England in the 1830s, there were an estimated 7000-8000 deer occupying the central and eastern Midlands of Tasmania by 1972.

Unconstrained by a statewide feral deer management strategy, their numbers have continued to climb.

An aerial survey in 2019 recorded some 54,000 deer across the 2 million hectare survey area. In contrast, only about 30,000 forester kangaroos were recorded, making feral deer the most numerous large animal in Tasmanian ecosystems.
Join our citizen science project

The Tasmanian Government wants to know where people are seeing deer in Tasmania, especially if people are seeing deer in the Wilderness World Heritage Area and in other high-conservation value areas.

We would also like to know if deer are encroaching on Tasmanian suburbs. There are increasing reports of deer on the roads surrounding Launceston, and down south near Hobart and Kingston.

Help keep track of deer distribution in Tasmania by becoming a ‘Tassie deer spotter” on iNaturalist. The information you supply by reporting sightings of feral deer will be fed into national scientific databases and help contribute to our knowledge about the spread of deer in Tasmania.

Once you join iNaturalist you can upload photos of deer, suspected deer prints or even deer poo as evidence of their presence!

We’d particularly like to hear about deer turning up in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, in the northwest of the state, down south and on Bruny Island.

To get started:

Download the iNaturalist mobile app to your smart phone or device (iOS or [url]Android[/url]).
Create an iNaturalist account using your personal email address and a unique password.
For help identifying fallow deer the pestSMART website has a handy tips page.
Join the Tassie Deer Spotters iNaturalist Project and begin making observations!
There is only one species of feral deer in Tasmania, its common name is fallow deer, it’s scientific name is Dama dama, so make sure you tag your observation with the correct name."
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby north-north-west » Thu 15 Apr, 2021 8:40 am

They're spreading. Always have been some scattered around the Central Plateau, but they're showing up in areas I've never seen - or heard of - them before. :(
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby Jon MS » Thu 15 Apr, 2021 2:12 pm

At the end of easter my partner and I walked across the plateau from Lake Ada to the Walls via Lake Fanny, returning via Lake Ball and the Pine River.

I made several observations whilst on the walk, including of deer.

Between Lake Antimony and the Lake Fanny track I estimated that the biggest user was deer, followed by wombats and then a distant third, people. The deer are also impacting on cushion plants with their hoofs making holes several cm deep.

At each of our campsites except for actually in the Walls, there were recent deer scats.

Between Lake Fanny and the Walls it appeared that very few walkers were accessing the route and there had been a large increase in the shrub height and density since I last did this route about 10 years ago.

The "track" down the Pine River has for over half of its length, gone. Where we could follow it, it was very overgrown (note that I am very used to following minor tracks and scrub bashing...).

What I suspect is happening is that the shrub vegetation has now largely recovered from the fires lit by Reg Dixon in the summer of 1960/61 (when he lit fires over a 2 week period which burnt out over 50 000 ha on the plateau). This, in association with the lack of severe winters and hard frosts (eg temperatures below about -25 for several nights in a row) resulting from climate change has allowed the shrubs to colonise and take over many areas previously covered by grasses, forbs and sphagnum. This can be seen in many of the sphagnum bogs containing pencil pines that are now being covered in Richeia and Gleichina.

The lack of severe winters will also probably be allowing the deer to increase their numbers due to fewer animals being killed during periods of adverse weather.

If my memory is right, the last severe frost in Tas was in June 1983, nearly 40 years ago.

It is worth noting that deer are likely to make this situation worse. They prefer to eat grasses, forbs and sedges which will give the shrubs a competitive advantage, further increasing shrub growth.

An effect of this is a marked increase in the average level of fuel hazard and resultant flammability. Most of the grassy, forb and sphagnum dominated areas have low to moderate levels of fuel hazard. Shrub dominated areas typically have very high to extreme levels of fuel hazard. This means that on a shrub dominated Central Plateau, bushfires are likely to be larger, more intense, burn larger areas and be much harder to manage.

I don't know what to do about this.

We can't plan and organise to get a severe frost.

Planned burning is not an answer because the increase in flammability in areas which were previously low fuel hazard will now carry fire, killing the fire sensitive pines. It also means that lightning fires are a much greater risk than in previous times.
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby sloz » Thu 15 Apr, 2021 10:00 pm

Sound analysis, Jon. I do worry about our changing fire regime and how our pencil pines and alpine endemic species will cope with it.

If the deer are contributing to the problem, by grazing on grasses and encouraging shrub growth, resulting in more intense fires, then the answer seems clear.

Venison roast?
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby Son of a Beach » Fri 16 Apr, 2021 8:31 am

Deer are protected in Tasmania, despite the fact that they're a feral species. Stupid, but that's the way it is. (Protected by permits/tags, bag limits, restricted seasons, etc)

The first thing that needs to happen is to allow open-season on deer permanently - provided we can manage the hunters to be safe. This alone won't eliminate deer, but it might make a dent in their rate of increase.
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby starjump » Sun 02 May, 2021 9:31 am

How about rabbits? Was mystified to see heaps of what I swear were rabbit droppings all over the top of Mt Ragoona earlier this year, no sign of burrows though, or any evidence on the hike up around lake myrtle etc.
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby Scottyk » Wed 05 May, 2021 7:31 am

It does seem there is a population on Rabbits living near the summit of Mount Ragoona. I can vouch for starjump on this one.
Why they have chosen that location and no others in the area I can not say
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby Rexyviney36 » Fri 25 Jun, 2021 11:14 am

Coldest temp ever recorded in Tasmania was last year...are you genuinely suggesting there were several -25 nights in a row last century?
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby ghosta » Fri 25 Jun, 2021 8:14 pm

Those wanting a little more info might download the article following the link below. It is interesting to read that drought is one factor that was responsible for the significant decline in deer numbers in the late 2000's...perhaps this also a factor which caused deer to spread out throughout the state.

Not sure that frosts would have much effect, deer are a pretty adaptive species and are distributed in places that get much colder than Tasmania.


https://www.google.com/url?q=http://dpi ... sPryWYkkpv
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Re: Deer in the TWWHA?

Postby Jon MS » Sat 26 Jun, 2021 11:10 am

When trying to work out the effects of frost on ecological processes in Tas, in most situations only limited information can be got from BoM official temperatures.

Most BoM weather stations are located in towns and/or homestead locations and very few are located in exposed and/or remote areas. The BoM also has standardised data collection protocols which while they are appropriate for comparing different locations and getting long term data they do not necessarily reflect what is happening out in the field. For example, there are no BoM weather stations on the upper Central Plateau, and the nearest stations are at Barren Tier and Liawenee, both of which are at lower altitude and in the case of Liawenee, sheltered from the worst weather. Also, temperatures are recorded within a Stevenson Screen at 1.2 m above the ground surface and it is normal for much lower temperatures to occur at or near the ground surface (where plants are growing).

In 1983 a PhD student (Neil Davidson) was studying the effects of frost on eucalypts at Snug Tiers. He recorded about 14 days in a row of very low temperatures, including -22 degrees at snow level on the night of 29-30 June 1983. During this time, the BoM official sites recorded a minimum of -13 degrees.

Historically, there have been other accounts of major frosts, such as the Great Frost of 1837 which was recorded by JE Calder, which killed huge numbers of trees across very extensive areas in central highlands (mostly in flat lying areas but not on hills which is why we know it was frost and not fire or drought).

So, in answer to your question, yes I am suggesting that there have been major frost events in Tas and that the BoM has not necessarily recorded them.

These low frequency extreme events have huge impacts and they are critical to understanding ecological processes. It also helps to have studied the historical records and read the published literature...
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