By Derek Schlennstedt
Having lived in the Dandenong Ranges for 25 years, I’ve seen quite a lot of change take place within the region.
A McDonalds has been built and you’ll no longer be able to feed birds at Grants Picnic Ground, but one of the most notable changes to the area has been the introduction and propagation of deer in the Dandenongs.
Speak to any environmentalist and you’ll learn that their influence is most pernicious, and that despite their cute, Bambi demeanour, they are a huge threat to the native species in Sherbrooke.
To address that threat a number of environmental groups in the Dandenongs have combined, including Alan Clayton from the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater, Alex Maisey from the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Study Group, Mike Hall from the Cardinia Deer Management Coalition and Karen Alexander from Johns Hill Landcare Group.
Their objective is clear. To address the deer problem in the Dandenongs, and obtain and record how often people are having near misses with deer.
Speaking to the Mail, Alex Maisey said the deer were devastating the forest.
“I could honestly say I either see or hear multiple deer on every single walk off-track I do in Sherbrooke.”
“Particularly in the east side of the forest, if you’re by yourself you just can’t go for a walk and not see them.”
While small volunteer hunting teams were employed by DELWP in previous years, there has been little to combat the burgeoning numbers.
That responsibility has now fallen to volunteer groups who work to protect the biodiversity within the Dandenongs.
“Two major impacts come from there hard hooves. They trample vegetation and create compact runs through the forest. They lead inevitably down to creeks and create incredible erosion in steep gullies,” Mr Maisey said.
“They’re also rubbing their antlers on Sassafras, which is our only true cool climate rainforest tree.”
Mr Maisey said they also affect native species such as small crayfish, lyrebirds and owls who rely on the Sassafras trees for vegetation.
Deer have also been wreaking havoc on local roads by causing near misses and unwanted close encounters with motorists and residents.
Monbulk Police said they see them regularly on night shifts.
“Olinda is full of them, seen some e big ones off Grantulla road around Menzies Creek … It’s not uncommon to see them everywhere, even up past Monbulk road heading to Belgrave and all the way down to Ferntree Gully.”
Videos continue to be shared on local noticeboards of deer jumping across roads and even Puffing Billy drivers have reported seeing an increase in numbers.
Ian Campbell, who been doing the job for 53 years, has witnessed a number of changes in the Dandenong, particularly the amount of deer in the area.
“One thing I have seen is a lot more deer,” he told the Mail in November 2019.
“On one day, between Selby and Menzies Creek I saw six and that was during the daytime. At night, at Emerald Lake I saw a massive big buck that jumped right across the tracks.”
The impact of these animals is profound and they are increasingly invading areas of the Yarra Ranges, causing car crashes, environmental damage and problems for farming.
While environmentalists and community leaders across the Yarra Ranges are banding together to raise their concerns with local members, the Mail is also interested in hearing about our readers’ experiences with them.
If you have had a close encounter, or see deer regularly in your backyard, write in to firstname.lastname@example.org