A bizarre new trend is emerging in rural Victoria, where ice addicts are apparently poaching deer and selling their heads in exchange for drugs.
In a report published in The Age today, police have spoken about the black market trade involving deer heads and desperate drug addicts finding novel ways to make money.
Reporter Tammy Mills told 3AW Breakfast that police believed they were either selling the decapitated heads to buy the drug, or swapping them with dealers to support their habit.
"Police have got intelligence that suggests there is a group operating in the Mansfield area in north-east Victoria that are going out illegally shooting deer, beheading them, taking their heads down to Melbourne and then swapping them directly for the drug or for cash to buy the drug," she said.
"Which is just mad. Police were saying between $200-300 is what some of these people were getting for a head.
"We are talking about a raw head they've got old mate next door who is incredibly skilled at stuffing the dead animal's head or they are taking the heads down there fresh."
Mills said there were reports that the dealers were only interested in selling the antlers. She said as many as 50,000 deer are shot every year in Victoria.
"If you speak to people living in deer habitats or in alpine areas, they will tell you it is rife," she said.
"Deer come out into small towns at night, like in Porepunkah they have been seen wandering around the main street hanging around the police station."
Kate Stevenson joked the deer were seeking refuge at local cop shops, trying to get away from the hunters.
"That's because they are scared of the ice addicts," she said.
In Victoria, there are a number of restrictions on shooting deer.
"To illegally shoot a deer you don't have a licence and secondly you could be shooting off a public road which as you can imagine is dangerous," Mills said.
"Or you are shooting them at night. It is illegal to spotlight deer in their habitats at night and the fines can be quite substantial.
"Generally the charges mean they will end up in court." Audiofile.