It may sound anti-Christmas, but we need to control these pests to protect our native ecosystems

As Christmas approaches, the image of Rudolph’s red nose and the sound of jingling bells as Santa’s trusty team of reindeer pull his sleigh captures the imagination of Australian children. But while these reindeer bring joy to the Christmas season, there is a darker side to their Australian counterparts. Feral deer are one of the most serious emerging environmental and agricultural threats to Australia.

Deer don’t belong in the Australian bush. Unlike much of the world, where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with their hard hooves and voracious appetite. They overgraze and trample native grasslands, they ring-bark native shrubs and trees and they cause erosion and pollution by wallowing in wetlands and streams. They eat fruit trees, grapevines, crops and pastures and destroy fences, costing farmers tens of thousands of dollars every year. Deer browse on and kill trees planted by Landcare groups, foresters, farmers and local councils. After bushfires, feral deer eat any new growth and stop revegetation.

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