Canberra deer hunter David Carter pictured with a Red Deer shot during an early morning hunt in 2011.

Canberra deer hunter David Carter pictured with a Red Deer shot during an early morning hunt in 2011. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

The ACT government is a step closer to launching a cull of feral deer in territory reserves.

An initial government study has confirmed that deer numbers are growing and causing damage to the environment.

The government now plans a second study into how much harm three species of deer are doing to waterways and native vegetation and fauna.

The results could lead the territory down the path taken by other eastern states, where shooters are used to control feral deer populations.

ACT Parks and Conservation launched its research six months ago following increased sightings of the pest by rural ACT landholders.

Parks officials had also taken reports of deer encroaching on urban areas near Mount Ainslie.

Oliver Orgill, a senior vertebrate pest officer with ACT Parks and Conservation, said the study had confirmed fallow deer, red deer and sambar deer were present “right across the ACT”.

He said their numbers were reaching a critical stage, but spotlights and remote camera monitoring would be used in territory parks to track the animals more closely.

“There’s anecdotal reports of undesirable impacts in the ACT but there’s been no study for that,” Mr Orgill said.

“We’re looking at getting a handle on environmental impacts of increasing deer populations and to monitor trends in population.

“That will then inform the necessity for any control programs down the line.”

Mr Orgill said feral deer caused damage through excessive grazing on native vegetation and wallowing in breeding areas for threatened species such as the Corroboree frog.

He said the animals spread weeds through parklands, particular riparian areas, leading to the degradation of waterways.

“This trend has been documented in other states, most notably in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland,” he said.

“There is evidence if deer populations remain unmanaged, they’re likely to increase in numbers and distribution and have adverse environmental impacts.

“If impacts are evident in the ACT,that may instigate the need for a control.”

But Mr Orgill said he did not believe a deer cull would receive the same public outcry as the territory’s annual kangaroo cull.

“I think the majority of the community would accept they’re an introduced species having an undesirable effect on the environment and the desire to control that,” he said.

“Other jurisdictions are grappling with this as well – NSW, Queensland, they’re all putting things into place.”