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18 January, 2022

Oh deer, we have a problem

FERAL deer are increasing in numbers around the region, with multiple reports of cars striking the animals at night, gardens being destroyed and even local horses being attacked and killed.

By Ellie Fink

A deer pictured in the wild at Springmount outside Mareeba.

Deer sightings are common around Koah, Speewah, Myola and even Springmount, west of Walkamin, with concerns growing about their increasing numbers and impacts, prompting calls for government action to address the issue. 

Myola property owner Ken Harley said he feared for his horses and others that may encounter deer while riding in the area.

“I have had deer in my paddocks… and I had a friend in Speewah whose horses were absolutely destroyed by them,” he said. 

“They can be seen regularly at Myola and on the Kuranda Range Road. 

“I think there needs be something in place to get rid of the deer as they pose a risk to horses. I don’t know what would happen if someone was riding a horse and a deer approached but I can assume (the deer) wouldn’t hold back.” 

Kuranda veterinary surgeon Dr Andrew Easton confirmed he had treated horses who had been attacked by male deer during mating season. 

Speewah local Brad Lewis said it was not uncommon to encounter deer on the Kennedy Highway on his way to work. 

“I usually leave Speewah at around 5am, when it is still dark, foggy and often raining and without a doubt, each morning I go that way, there will be around three or four full-sized deer standing on the right-hand side of the highway around the Koah service station on the crest of the hill,” he said. 

“These animals just automatically freeze when the high beam lights hit them – they literally are deer in the headlights. “The issue really needs to be addressed by a government authority urgently before a smaller car collides with one of these animals and someone is killed.” Locals shared their experiences on Facebook regarding interactions with deer. 

“My husband carpools from Speewah to work and a deer came across the highway just near the old zoo and smashed his car – luckily no one was hurt except the deer,” one commenter said. 

“Nearly hit a buck one night and the next night a doe and fawn just west of the Koah servo- some locals say they are a pest and others love them, I suppose it depends on whether you have a good fence around your garden,” another post said.

Kuranda Police Officer in Charge Sergeant Shane Mattes said two vehicles had collided with the feral pests at the Koah service station hotspot in the past two months. 

“It’s quite common to encounter various livestock and wild animals on roads throughout the Tablelands,” he said. 

“In particular, we have many cassowary sightings on the Kuranda Range along with stock using the roads as you head further west. Motorists can also expect to encounter deer, kangaroos, wallabies and other wildlife.” 

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, deer must not be moved, fed, given away, sold or released into the environment without a permit. 

In a statement, the Department of Environment and Science says it does not consider feral deer to be an issue in the region. 

“(We) can confirm that feral deer are not currently seen as an issue in national parks in the Koah, Speewah and Myola region and the department has no feral deer management activities occurring in these parks at this time,” they said.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Fishery, people are allowed to use pest control measures against deer so long as it is on their property. Motorists are urged to keep an eye out for road signs warning of animals in the area and adjust their driving accordingly. If anyone encounters an injured animal requiring care, they can contact FNQ Wildlife Rescue on 4053 4467. 

If a deceased animal is causing a road hazard, contact 13 19 40 or police on 131 444.

  • There are four types of deers that are currently in Far North Queensland – Fallow, Rusa, Chital and Red deer. 
  • The average weight of a deer is about 80 - 220kg for a buck 40- 100kg for the doe. 
  • The average height of a deer is 80 to 120cm standing from the shoulder for a buck and 80-90cm for a doe. 
  • During breeding season, it common for a doe to birth up to three fawns, causing a rapid increase in its population.

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