SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Officials may shoot and kill wild deer roaming in Australia's oldest national park to save native plants and animals that survived extensive wildfires, officials said Wednesday.
A committee of animal rights groups, conservationists and government officials has drafted a plan for professional shooters to target most of the 2,500 wild deer in the Royal National Park in southern Sydney.
Introduced from Indonesia in the 18th century, the deer have thrived on local plants and shrubs, often at the expense of native animals such as kangaroos and possums.
The so-called ``black Christmas fires'' ripped through the Royal National Park _ the world's second oldest national park behind Yellowstone in the United States _ razing about 80 percent of its 39,500 acres. Officials estimate thousands of native animals were killed or injured.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service said while some deer would have also been killed, those remaining would hamper regeneration of the forest and compete with native animals for food.
Service director Brian Gilligan said they have tried trapping the deer and deporting them and ``investigated options such as fertility control, but at the moment none of those present a viable alternative.''
``What the working party are recommending is that we should proceed with culling by ground shooting and do that as soon as possible to get the numbers down,'' he added.
A decision would have to be made within two weeks, Gilligan said.