Balloted hunting of hog deer on Snake Island
Frequently asked questions
Why Snake Island?
Snake Island holds a large, vibrant population of hog deer.
It is possible to run a balloted hunt during the week without impacting on the amenity of other users.
Opportunities to hunt hog deer on public land are rare are highly prized by hunters.
There are opportunities on nearby Sunday Island and on private land but these require substantial investments of time and/or money in order to secure an opportunity. The overarching principle is that public land should be able to be used by the public.
Hunting is a legitimate use of public land and this is recognised by both sides of Parliament.
Ancillary benefits of legal hunting will be the ability to collect valuable data and accurately assess the health of the Snake Island hog deer herd.
Is legal hunting on Snake Island safe?
In late July 2016, an independent expert from the Victoria Police Firearm Licensing and Regulation Division attended Snake Island with Game Management Authority staff. The purpose of the visit was to assess firearm use and potential human and/or domestic stock safety issues associated with legal recreational hunting on the Island. The island was assessed in the context of using centre-fire high powered rifles for recreational hunting of hog deer and the risk that this activity may pose to the current users of the island. The assessment reconfirmed a 2011 assessment which found that there are no public safety concerns associated with the balloted hunting of hog deer on Snake Island.
In late August 2011, an independent expert from the Victoria Police Firearm Licensing and Regulation Division attended Snake Island with the (then) Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria staff. The purpose of the visit was to assess firearm use and potential human and/or domestic stock safety issues associated with legal recreational hunting on the Island. The island was assessed in the context of using centre-fire high powered rifles for recreational hunting of hog deer and the risk that this activity may pose to the current users of the island. The conclusion of the assessment states, “I have no concerns at all relating to hunters using firearms on this island for the legal hunting of hog deer”.
Any further controls which would accompany balloted hunting (e.g. signage and emergency management plans) could only further enhance the already undeniably strong safety credentials of the proposed trial.
Hunting of hog deer has occurred in Corner Inlet without incident for one hundred and fifty years. Managed hunting of hog deer has occurred without incident on neighbouring Sunday Island for fifty years.
Balloted hog deer hunting (very similar to what is being proposed for Snake Island) has been conducted without incident at Blond Bay and Boole Poole for twenty eight years.
Balloted hunting is preceded by education weekends and safety briefings.
The Snake Island Cattlemens Association state that they have defeated proposals to introduce balloted hunting to Snake Island three times using claims of concern for public safety. The expert advice and the demonstrated history of balloted hog deer hunting puts paid to these claims.
In a letter to the local media in 2012 the Snake Island Cattlemens Association conceded that “The Association is in no way questioning the qualification of the assessing officer”.
Who are these deer hunters?
It is impossible to typecast deer hunters just as it is impossible to typecast fishermen.
A study conducted by the Victorian Government in 2013 found that the “average” hunter is in their forties, has a family, has a post secondary education, earns higher than the average weekly wage and lives in middle suburbia.
Is hunting on Snake Island sustainable?
Balloted hunting allows game managers to manipulate the harvest to ensure that the program is sustainable whilst maximising environmental outcomes (when necessary) and trophy potential.
Contrary to claims advanced by some there is currently no knowledge of the health of the hog deer herd on Snake Island. It is known that concentrated populations with no natural predators tend to become overabundant and consequently be in poor condition (causing death by exposure during cold winters). Checking station results from a control program conducted on Wilsons Promontory in 2015 found that the deer in the Park were around 30% lighter than those taken by mainland hunters during the open season. An ancillary benefit of legal hunting on Snake Island will be the ability to collect valuable data and more effectively gauge the health of the herd.
Will this have a negative impact on tourism?
36,000+ licensed deer hunters co-exist harmoniously with a myriad of other users of public land throughout coastal and alpine Victoria on a daily basis.
Hunters on balloted positions on public land have had no known incidence of conflict with any other user of public land during thousands of hunting days over twenty five years
The Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association has suggested that the mere presence of firearms on the island will somehow jeopardise tourism in the entire region.
If this claim had any merit whatsoever then the hunting on neighbouring Sunday Island would logically have already had this effect, Port Albert would be a ghost town!
Hunting is commonplace in the high country and in coastal Gippsland and no credible government department, business or community group has ever raised concerns that hunting is negatively impacting on tourism, on the contrary, the Victorian Government and some local councils promote hunting opportunities to potential tourists.
Recreational hunters successfully assist government with deer management initiatives on in high visitor areas such as Wilsons Promontory and the Dandenong Ranges without incident.
The Victorian Government reports that hunting contributes $439 million annually to the Victorian economy. Around 70% of that money is spent in regional Victoria.
Balloted hunting will provide a source of “tourist” dollars during the “off” season. Ballot hunters routinely bring non hunting companions and make “scouting” trips. Hunters will use local services such as charter boats, food and beverage service, fuel and accommodation. Each balloted hunting period could realistically equate to 300 “visits” to the local area.
Balloted hunting will provide manpower and funds (several thousand dollars a year) to important environmental works on the island and in the catchment more generally. Over the past eleven years ADA has rehabilitated over one thousand hectares of degraded former farmland in the Clydebank Morass State Game Reserve.
The only conceivable way that balloted hunting could affect tourism would be if the opponents of hunting continue to spread misinformation (i.e. about the safety of hunting).
Hunters are the “camo clad” eco tourists.
Why are some people in the local community worried about this?
Because they are human.
There has been a lot of misinformation spread about the safety of hunting in the local community over a lot of years.
None of this is supported by evidence or by the lived experience of communities elsewhere.
Illegal hunting has also been a cause for concern. It is not fair or logical to associate this with the legitimate hunters who will be taking part in balloted hunting on the Island.
Does balloted hunting occur elsewhere?
Sunday Island has run balloted hunting programs for the past fifty years – with hunts taking place over a long period including weekends and public holidays.
Balloted hunting for hog deer on public land has occurred in Victoria on the Boole Poole Peninsula and at the Blond Bay State Game Reserve for the past twenty five years.
Why have other attempts to introduce hunting failed?
The main reason is that the Snake Island Cattlemens Association have blocked them. They have a clearly stated opposition to balloted hunting. Their concerns appear to be sincerely held but they are completely baseless.
Is illegal hunting a problem on Snake Island?
Yes. Illegal hunting of hog deer is a problem throughout South Gippsland. Illegal hunting invariably involves trespass and a number of other crimes and, due to its covert and unpredictable nature it impacts heavily on land managers, local communities and indeed on the legitimate majority of deer hunters who it robs of opportunity.
Who are the Snake Island Cattlemen?
The Snake Island Cattlemens association carry on the traditions of the “agisters” who were dairy farmers from the surrounding hill country who used the Island as a turn out block for cattle between 1909 and the 1970’s.
Do the Snake Island Cattlemen have a special claim on the Island?
Legally, no. The Island is public land.
Culturally, yes. Cattle grazing and the sea crossing are a rich part of the cultural heritage of Corner Inlet and Victoria. The agisters have a unique place in the culture of the area. The Snake Island Cattlemen tourism business is the modern incarnation of a proud tradition that stretches back over a century.
Balloted hunting will not interfere with this tradition and will pose no danger to it.
Why are the Snake Island Cattlemen opposed to this?
The Snake Island Cattlemen state few reasons and much of their opposition seems to come down to tradition and sincerely held but unfounded fear of the impact of balloted hunting on their use of the Island.
The few reasons they do state – safety, sustainability and impacts on tourism are all contrary to clear and undisputed evidence.