2 August 2020 - UPDATED 9.00pm
Victoria is heading towards increased restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In New South Wales and Queensland the situation is also heading in a concerning direction.
Human health is, and should be, the primary consideration here. Hunters across Australia have demonstrated widespread compliance and adaptability in these challenging and dynamic times.
From 6pm tonight Victoria will be officially in a "state of disaster", giving Police and others additional powers.
For Metropolitan Melbourne there will be increased restrictions including removing recreational activity being no longer allowed and only one hour of exercise per day, no more than five kilometres from home. This rules hunting and fishing out for people who live within Metropolitan Melbourne. Melbourne will also have a curfew in place between 8pm and 5am. The Statement from the Premier details:
From 6pm tonight, Melbourne will also move to Stage 4 restrictions with stronger rules to limit the movement of people – and limit the spread of this virus across our city.
That includes a curfew – from 8pm to 5am – beginning tonight. The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving.
Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks. There’ll be exemptions for partners who live apart and for work, if required.
The Night Network will be suspended, and public transport services will be reduced during curfew hours. This will also allow us to redeploy more of our PSOs into our enforcement efforts.
New time, distance and gathering limits will also apply for exercise and shopping.
Exercise will be limited to a maximum of one hour per day and no more than five kilometres from your home. Group size will be limited to a maximum of two – you and one other person – whether you live with them or not.
Shopping will be limited to one person per household per day. Again, the five-kilometre rule will apply.
For regional Victoria (our understanding is the Mitchell Shire will be included in this), from Midnight on Wednesday, Stage three restrictions will apply. We will get more clarity on this, however, we expect it to rule out travel to go hunting for most. The Statement from the Premier details:
From 11:59pm on Wednesday, regional Victoria will return to Stage 3 “Stay at Home” restrictions.
That means there’ll again only be four reasons to be out: shopping for food and essential items. Care and caregiving. Daily exercise. Work and study – if you can’t do it from home.
Otherwise, you need to stay home.
Businesses in regional Victoria will also return to Stage 3 restrictions.
That means restaurants and cafes can only offer delivery and takeaway. Beauty and personal services will need to close. Entertainment and cultural venues will need to close. Community sport will need to stop.
These restrictions will be in place until mid-September.
The restrictions will have implications for deer management which will play through over the coming years and beyond. The pandemic comes on the back of a severe summer bushfire season which impacted large areas of South Eastern Australia, including large forested areas of Eastern Victoria where populations of sambar deer in particular are already well established and on a growth curve. In the very short term, the fires killed a number of deer. In the present to medium term, the regrowth from the fires, coupled with the increased dispersal of deer, will likely lead to an accelerated growth curve in the bushfire recovery area.
Parks Victoria have recently reported to us on ‘the success’ of an aerial control program which has been operating since early February which has removed just under 2,000 deer in a ‘target area’ of around 2,600km2 or around 0.75 deer per km2. Last week we requested more meaningful information from Parks Victoria so that we can report properly on the management and ecological implications of the aerial control program – to date all we have is a fairly meaningless metric of ‘minutes per animal’ (and even then, the mathematics don’t stack up).
By comparison, last year alone recreational deer hunters took around 140,000 wild deer in Victoria, mostly sambar, mostly on public land, mostly female.Given the restrictions in place we expect a dramatic decline in the 2020 recreational harvest. The management and conservation implications of this gap will almost certainly never be properly reported on or quantified. They will also compound over the coming years. Just as regulated deer hunting provides ‘triple bottom line’ benefits to the community (social, economic and environmental), the absence of hunting denies the community those benefits.
As we all too often reflect this year, the one certainty in this situation is uncertainty. We will keep hunters informed as we know more.