Protecting hunting not managing deer appears to be the aim of the draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy, a central Victorian environmental group has said.
Dozens of groups have called for effective control of deer populations in an open letter to three Victorian ministers in response to the draft strategy.
Among them was the Mount Alexander based group Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests.
Secretary Bernard Slattery said the actual problem of controlling deer had been forgotten in the strategy. While deer were not yet a big problem in central Victoria, the group did not want to see them become one.
Deer trashed the bush, trashed agricultural land, and were a traffic hazard, he said.
The government has been so concerned with giving this facility to hunters that they've forgotten the actual problem of controlling the deer.
Central Victoria is home to some populations of Fallow deer. Sambar deer are the most common breed in Victoria, living mainly in the eastern half of the state.
Populations are rising most extremely near Melbourne and in Victoria's east, Mr Slattery said.
"The statewide information shows that the deer population is rising rapidly," he said.
"We have anecdotal evidence here that it's increasing here as well. There have been several sightings in the past couple of months.
"We're a bit worried about the prospects rather than the current reality. The question is, 'Could it get that bad here?', and we don't know, but we'd rather not find out."
Signatories called the government to list deer as a pest, establish a state wide zoning system to protect at least national parks and use professionals to control the animals. The letter was addressed to Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Resources, Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Energy Environment and Climate Change, Lily D'Ambrosio and Minister for Water, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Lisa Neville.
Mr Slattery said the draft strategy was a hunting strategy, not a management strategy.
"The government has been so concerned with giving this facility to hunters that they've forgotten the actual problem of controlling the deer," Mr Slattery said.
"Hunting does not control deer numbers."