Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Animal welfare outcomes of professional vehicle-based shooting of peri-urban rusa deer in Australia

Hampton, J.O., MacKenzie, D.I. and Forsyth, D.M. (2022) Animal welfare outcomes of professional vehicle-based shooting of peri-urban rusa deer in Australia. Wildlife Research . Online Early.

Free to read:
*No subscription required


Context: Vehicle-based shooting has been widely used to kill deer, but the animal-welfare outcomes of this technique have not been evaluated in Australasia.

Aim: To assess the animal-welfare outcomes of peri-urban deer culling by quantifying the fates of deer seen and shot at, the duration of procedures, and the number and location of bullet wounds in deer.

Methods: We assessed vehicle-based night shooting of peri-urban rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) by professional contractors in eastern Australia. Shooters targeted the heads of deer using .223 Remington® rifles and 55 grain bullets. Independent veterinarians conducted ante-mortem (i.e. from the shooting vehicle) and post-mortem (i.e. inspecting the carcass) observations. The ante-mortem data were used to estimate the proportion of deer seen that were shot at, killed, wounded, and escaped. The influence of variables predicted to affect shooting outcomes was assessed. The numbers and locations of bullet wounds were recorded post-mortem.

Key results: Of the 269 deer seen in 21 nights, 48% were shot at and 85% of those shot at were killed by either one (87%), two (10%) or three (3%) shots. The frequency of non-fatal wounding (i.e. escaping wounded) was 3.5% for those shot at and hit, and the median time to insensibility for the deer that were shot multiple times was 289 s. There was variation among shooters in their ability to hit a deer, and also to do so with a killing shot. The number of bullet wounds per deer ranged from 1 to 3 (mean = 1.1), with 83% of shots striking the brain and 17% striking the anterior skull, neck and jaw.

Conclusions: The animal welfare outcomes we observed were comparable to those reported from other professional ground-based shooting programs for ungulates, but were poorer than those reported for professional ground-based shooting of peri-urban kangaroos.

Implications: Our results suggest that one way to improve the animal welfare outcomes of vehicle-based shooting of peri-urban deer is by improving shooter training. Assessment of shooter performance should be a routine part of ground-based shooting programs.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)).
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year