Feral Goat Control

Goats were introduced to New Zealand in the 1770s. They were first liberated as a food source and to clear weeds, and later to provide fibre for commercial industries. Goats were easily domesticated, and as a result were moved throughout the country as land was cleared for farming and settlement. Populations of wild goats have largely been a result of escapees from farms and deliberate releases

Description: Male goats stand around 70 cm high at the shoulder and can grow to 1.5 metres in length, weighing between 50-60 kg. Adult females are considerably smaller. Both sexes may be white, black, brown or a combination and have horns. Male goats have chin beards and a pungent smell. Both sexes have a flat tail that is bare on the underside.

Problem: New Zealand’s native plants are particularly vulnerable to damage from browsing. Herding browsers such as goats cause two-fold damage by eating native plants and by trampling large areas of vegetation and compactable soils. Goats will eat the foliage of most trees and plants and quickly destroy all vegetation within their reach, eating seedlings, saplings and litter-fall off the forest floor. They do however have strong preferences and will eat out favoured species first such as broadleaf/pāpāuma (Griselinia littoralis) and māhoe (Melicytus ramiflorus) before moving on to less desirable plants. Goats will also strip bark off trees and by eating young seedlings they effectively put a stop to forest regeneration.

Goat Control Methods: • Shooting is the most common method of control. Although thorough shooting to control should not be confused with recreational hunting. Recreational hunting may help to keep goat numbers down, but more often than not it only keeps them dispersed and difficult to control. Shooting should not be attempted unless the shooter is in a good position to shoot most if not all of the herd, as the missed goats will become much harder to shoot in the future. When numbers are low, we use goat indicating dogs to find goats.

• In country with low population densities, Judas goat technology is sometimes used. In these situations, a goat is caught, fitted with a radio-collar and released back into the area. This animal – known as a Judas – then joins up with any remaining mob of goats, allowing the hunters to locate and shoot the mob.

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