Hunting pest animals is a very popular pastime in Victoria. Not only does pest animal hunting provide a recreational challenge it also contributes to reducing pest animal numbers in the environment.
In 2013, licensed Victorian game hunters contributed about $59 million dollars to the Victorian economy hunting rabbits, goats, wild pigs, foxes and wild dogs to name a few of the most popular pest species.
Many hunters also make good use of the pest animals they hunt by transforming what is considered a pest into a wholesome meal for friends and family as is often the case with rabbits, goats and pigs.
While a game licence is not required to hunt pest animals, some hunters will need to get a Registration of interest to hunt pest animals on Crown land in order to have a genuine reason to obtain a firearm with which to hunt pest animals. The Registration of interest to hunt pest animals on Crown land can be obtained by contacting the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on 136 186.
There is no season that applies to pest animals. Pest animals can be hunted all year.
(Photo on the left by Reg Gordon)
Victorians typically hunt the following pest animals:
Respect for your quarry should extend to all animals that you hunt. You must use the right equipment to effectively and humanely hunt pest animals.
Gundogs may be used to point or flush foxes, hare, or rabbits or to retrieve hare or rabbits. A gundog should retrieve without causing physical injury so that the animal retrieved can be killed humanely by the hunter.
You can use dogs to point and flush pigs. It is a serious offence to use any dog that attacks, holds or maims an animal you are hunting.
Fox hunters who use hounds and horses must be members of an approved hunting organisation who use horses and hounds for hunting foxes. The only hounds permitted to be used for this purpose are 'foxhounds' identified by a legible ear tattoo and registered with the approved organisation.
Rabbit hunters may use ferrets to drive rabbits from burrows. Ferrets that savage rabbits must not be used in hunting
See the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting for full details.
Pest animals can be hunted on private property (with the permission of the owner) and in State Forests.
Regulation changes in 2018 allow the hunting of foxes, rabbits and hares during daylight hours in State Game Reserves during a duck season by appropriately licensed game hunters. Please read all the information on this page for more details before you hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves.
In recognised deer habitat, spotlighting for pest animals can only occur on private property or within 250 metres outside the boundary of private property. This is because it is an offence to be in possession of a spotlight and firearm in recognised deer habitat from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
Outside of recognised deer habitat, pest animal hunting can occur under spotlight on Crown land that permits pest hunting, such as State Forests.
Spotlighting for pest animals on private land (with permission of the owner) is a popular and effective way to hunt pest animals. However, hunters need to be even more cautious when applying the Firearms Safety Code at night as judging safe direction and firing zones becomes very difficult if you do not know the property or surrounding area intimately. Therefore, hunting on private property at night should only occur on a property you know well, or in the company of someone who is very familiar with the property and its neighbouring surrounds.
The use of dogs when pig hunting is regulated under a number of Victorian Acts, in particular the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. Many of the pig hunting activities that are shown on the internet, on television and described in Australian pig hunting magazines and elsewhere are not permitted in Victoria. These include the methods by which pigs are killed and the ways in which dogs are used in pig hunting.
Sticking pigs with a knife or similar instrument is not permitted, unless this is being done to bleed out the pig after it has been killed humanely, for example by the humane use of a firearm. This sort of activity is subject to large penalties, under section 9 (cruelty) and section 10 (aggravated cruelty) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
Use of dogs
The Domestic Animals Act 1994 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, including the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting (revision 1), restrict the use of dogs in pig hunting to flushing the pigs from cover and pointing. Flushing is when the dog finds the pig and drives it from a hiding place. Pointing is when a dog stops and points its muzzle in the direction of the pig.
Dogs must not be permitted to chase pigs down or 'hit up' on a pig. It is illegal to cut off the ears of live pigs to make them more 'challenging' for dogs to hold. In fact, dogs must not be used to hold pigs by their ears (lugging) or any other part of their bodies at all. Dogs must not be permitted to injure or maim pigs in any way, while the pigs are still alive. Dogs must not be allowed to fight a pig. All of these activities are illegal. It is also illegal to train dogs for these purposes. These activities are regularly described in pig hunting literature but are not permitted in Victoria, due to the welfare impacts on both pigs and dogs. Hunted pigs are to be killed humanely and hunting dogs must not be used in ways that will subject them to the types of injuries that occur in these illegal pig hunting activities.
Illegal release of pigs
It is illegal to release pigs for the purpose of providing hunting opportunities, and there are heavy penalties for this under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.
The relevant sections of the Acts and the maximum penalties that can be applied if a person is prosecuted are:
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986
Section 9 Cruelty, 9(a), 9(c), 9(h): 246 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for a person, or, in the case of a body corporate, 600 penalty units.
Section 10 Aggravated Cruelty: 492 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years for a person, or, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units.
Section 13 Baiting and Luring: 240 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years or for a person, in the case of a body corporate, 1200 penalty units.
Domestic Animals Act 1994
Section 28 Setting or urging a dog to attack: 120 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months for a person.
Section 28A Training dogs to attack: 60 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 months.
Section 29 Dog attacks: 40 penalty units.
Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
Section 75A(4) Release of established pest animal: 60 penalty units.
One penalty unit is currently $151.67.
Changes to the Wildlife (State Game Reserves) Regulations 2014 now allow the hunting of certain pest animals on State Game Reserves during the open season for duck hunting.
From 2 May 2018 recreational hunters can hunt foxes, hares and rabbits on State Game Reserves while hunting for game duck.
The changes deliver an initiative of the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan 2016-2020 under which the Government committed to improving hunting opportunities in Victoria and specifically, expanding pest hunting by exploring further hunting opportunities for game licence holders on State Game Reserves.
The regulations prescribe various conditions that hunters need to be aware of before hunting pest animals on State Game Reserves. These conditions are summarised below -
Who can hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves?
You are allowed to hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves if you are:
When can you hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves?
You can hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves during the open season for duck hunting, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
This means that you can hunt pest animals for the remainder of the 2018 duck hunting season which ends on 11 June 2018 and for the duration of future seasons.
Where can you hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves?
You can hunt pest animals on State Game Reserves wherever duck hunting is permitted.
This means that you can not hunt pest animals in an area of a reserve where hunting has been prohibited or in a reserve that has been closed for duck hunting as part of seasonal arrangements.
What pest animals can you hunt?
Only certain pest animals may be hunted on State Game Reserves:
What are the main changes being made to the Wildlife (State Game Reserves) Regulations?
Previously, pest animals could not be hunted on State Game Reserves unless specifically authorised by Parks Victoria in undertaking pest animal control programs.
The new regulations expand recreational hunting opportunities in Victoria by allowing appropriately licensed game hunters to hunt pest animals in State Game Reserves in addition to game ducks.
The regulations have been changed to enable recreational hunters who are authorised to hunt ducks to use a shotgun, with non-toxic shot, to hunt foxes, rabbits and hares in State Game Reserves during daylight hours of the open season for duck hunting.
Why are hunters only allowed to hunt pest animals during the duck hunting season?
The prescribed duck hunting season occurs largely outside the breeding periods of waterfowl. Restricting pest animal hunting to the duck hunting season will ensure that there is no disturbance to breeding waterfowl during the vulnerable breeding periods.
Why are you restricting pest animal hunting to where duck hunting is permitted?
The amendment regulations do not make any changes to where people can and cannot hunt.
Generally, all State Game Reserves are available for duck hunting during the duck hunting season, however wetlands may be closed for duck hunting on a seasonal basis for various reasons including the concentration of threatened waterbirds, the presence of any rare, vulnerable specifies that may be disturbed by duck hunting or due to public safety concerns
To ensure that environmental outcomes are not compromised hunters will be permitted to hunt pest animals in the same areas where duck hunting is permitted. Hunters are reminded to check seasonal arrangements on the GMA website.
Why can hunters only hunt foxes, hares and rabbits?
The intention of the regulations is to permit hunters to hunt specified pest animals on State Game Reserves that they come across when legitimately hunting game ducks. Limiting hunting to these smaller pest animals that are commonly found in State Game Reserves will improve hunting opportunities while ensuring that it remains an incidental activity to duck hunting. It also ensures that hunting activity on State Game Reserves is at manageable levels and is undertaken in a responsible manner.
Why are hunters required to use shotguns with non-toxic shot to hunt pest animals?
The Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 restrict the use of firearms for duck hunting to shotguns and the use of non-toxic shot. Applying this restriction equally to pest animal hunting ensures that this remains an incidental activity to duck hunting and ensures that lead-shot contamination will not occur on State Game Reserve habitat.