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Helicopter trial to control feral goats

Friday 7 June, 2013

Parks Victoria is planning to conduct a pilot aerial shooting program to control the number of feral goats in Warby-Ovens National Park and Mount Mitta Mitta (Mittamatite) Regional Park from 11-13 June, pending suitable conditions.

Mount Mitta Mitta (Mittamatite) Regional Park and a section of the Warby-Ovens National Park will be temporarily closed to protect public safety during the operation.

Parks Victoria East Region Regional Director Andrew Marshall said feral goats are recognised as a significant pest in Australia and are declared a pest animal species under the Victorian Catchment and Land Protection (CaLP) Act. Parks Victoria must control numbers in the parks in accordance with legislation.

“If left uncontrolled, feral goat populations can rapidly increase in parks where they compete for food with native animals, destroy habitat, damage sensitive cultural heritage sites and impact on neighbouring properties,” said Mr Marshall.

The pilot program aims to test the effectiveness of aerial shooting in eradicating isolated goat populations at two strategic sites to protect the environment, and build local capacity to design and implement aerial shooting control programs in the future.

“The pilot aerial operation will be conducted in collaboration with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. It will focus on targeting two isolated goat populations that have escaped previous efforts to eradicate using standard control methods, largely due to the steep and rocky terrain,” said Mr Marshall.

“If successful, the aerial shooting methodology may be useful for eradicating other smaller, isolated populations of feral goats, large populations in the Mallee or be expanded to control other established pest animal species such as feral pigs in the future.”

Parks Victoria is working with highly skilled and qualified personnel to undertake the operation including accredited aerial shooters from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.  

“NSW have well a developed accreditation system for professional aerial shooting programs targeting goats and this methodology offers benefits over alternative control measures where ground shooting, trapping or mustering are not viable due to inaccessible terrain,” said Mr Marshall.

Parks Victoria has a long-standing successful partnership with the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) who will be involved in mapping and spotting in the Mount Mitta Mitta operation, and in the design of future programs if the methodology is adopted.

“Parks Victoria has worked closely with the Sporting Shooters Association to reduce the goat population from around 100 goats to 20-30 in 18 complete operations at Mount Mitta Mitta Regional Park over the past six years,” said Mr Marshall.

“As the number of goats gets lower, the gains are reduced with each operation and we recognise that we need to take a new approach to eliminate the remaining goats that could quickly escalate in numbers.

“Travelling by helicopter in this pilot will help us travel further and faster over the rugged landscape to target these elusive pest animals,” he said.

The operation will be carried out under a new Victorian Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), developed by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI), with standards designed to ensure safe, effective and humane aerial shooting operations. The SOP is a provisional procedure that will be subject to review as a result of the pilot to continue to develop best practice standards.

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