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Technology helping remove feral goats

Wednesday 5 December, 2012

The Everard block of the Kinglake National Park is now free of goats according to local Parks Victoria Ranger Sean Hunter, who’s removed over two hundred of them, with the help of IT, in the past three years.

“I got rid of the last goat I was tracking recently and haven’t seen any sign of goats there since. That makes a total of 230 gone from that block,” he said.

Shortly after the 2009 fires, feral goats started moving into burnt areas to graze the new growth of trees and plants, and Sean started his campaign to get rid of them. He says at first it was quite easy to locate and shoot in the bare landscape, but eventually the thick regrowth made it impossible to find or see anything. That’s when Sean started his high tech trapping, using sensor cameras connected to the internet.

He spent a quite a lot of time tracking their movements using Judas goats with radio collars to find out what their movements were, and the best places to put the portable trap yards.

The camera is mounted on the gate of the trap yard and set to film any large body movement. The image is then sent to the Skypoint website and an alert is also sent to Sean’s phone. He then logs on to the site with his own password to check the images twice a day.

“It means you don’t have to keep checking the trap to see if there is anything in it, so it’s a huge time saver,” says Sean. I’d spend about two to three hours a day visiting the traps in the past, and now by just pressing a few keys I can see what’s going on. He also says that it’s not an expensive system to use. “Skypoint was developed by the Canadians and only costs $20 a year.”

Sean has also developed a solar power system for the cameras so their batteries are being continually recharged, and don’t have to be regularly replaced.  

Given the success of this project, Sean is now making plans for a similar foray into the Sugarloaf Block of Kinglake National Park in the near future.

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