Integrated feral goat control
This page provides advice on integrated feral goat control.
Why manage feral goats?
- In Victoria feral or wild populations of goats (Capra hircus) are declared as established pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.
- Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 all landowners have a responsibility to prevent the spread of and, as far as possible, eradicate established pest animals on their land.
Goats were first introduced to Australia in 1788 when they arrived with the first fleet. Wild populations quickly established and feral goats have since become major agricultural and environmental pests.
Feral goat grazing damage affects pastures and crops as well as native vegetation. Feral goats also cause erosion and associated sedimentation of waterways. Feral goats pose a biosecurity risk as vectors of many livestock diseases.
Before you begin: Feral goat biology and behaviour
Before designing your feral goat control program, it is important to understand feral goat behaviour and characteristics.
Information on feral goat characteristics and behaviour.
Management of feral goats on your property
Points to remember
- Control feral goats before they cause severe pasture or crop losses, vegetation damage and contribute to waterway sedimentation and soil erosion.
- Ensure your feral goat control program doesn't affect native wildlife.
- If you are planning to use traps to control feral goats: the trap specifications, trap checking times, provision of food, water and shade, and humane destruction of trapped feral goats MUST be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and associated regulations. Trapping has several animal welfare implications and anyone considering trapping should read important further information. See Humane Vertebrate Pest Control.
- If you are planning to use dogs for feral goat control, be mindful that there are specific requirements for the use of dogs for hunting. Under Section 28 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994, a person must not set or urge a dog to attack, bite, rush at or chase any animal except when hunting in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA). Refer to the POCTA Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting for specific information on the use of dogs in hunting.
Planning your program
Planning can maximise the effectiveness of feral goat control while minimising damage to other animals. Consider goat density, distribution and the habitat in which the feral goats are living as this will determine what actions are appropriate. The following steps will help in planning.
1. Work together
Coordinate control work with your neighbours the best results are achieved where neighbours conduct simultaneous feral goat control across a landscape, rather than just on individual properties. Work on your property can be undermined by the inactivity of your neighbours. Talk to your neighbours and local Landcare group and work out a plan for coordinated action.
2. Conduct monitoring
- Identify feral goat feeding and refuge areas in and around your property. Map these areas for future reference. Feral goats are often found on rocky outcrops, steep slopes, thick vegetation, gullies and ravines, goats can also be found in rangeland country.
- Feral goats can be monitored by measuring tracks and scats, using motion sensor cameras and visual counts particularly at water points in dry areas. Aerial counts can also be used in some broad-scale infestations.
- Assess the risks to non-target animals when implementing shooting and trapping, record them on a map for later reference.
- Establish a benchmark of the impact of feral goats on your property. This will be used to measure the effectiveness of your control programs against the impacts of goats (i.e. vegetation damage).
- Use the information you have gained from monitoring to:
- target your control effort;
- monitor the progress and success of your control program; and
- vary and improve your program.
It is important to continue monitoring on an ongoing basis to detect and treat any re-infestation of your property.
3. Aim to be feral goat free
Create a detailed feral goat management plan that has a specific aim and time-bound objectives to meet that aim. Eradication may not be possible in all areas and feral goats will require ongoing maintenance to manage the population at low levels.
4. Use all the tools!
Effective feral goat management utilises all the available control measures that are feasible on your property. Every individual feral goat should be exposed to as many different control measures as possible making your property a feral goat hostile environment.
You will need to consider seasonal movements of feral goats and access to areas where feral goats are feeding and living. Drier times when water is limited often concentrate goats around water sources making mustering, trapping or shooting more efficient.
6. Evaluate your success
Conduct a second round of monitoring after your control program.
- Are feral goats still present?
- Are you still experiencing damage caused by feral goats?
- Is the impact of feral goats above/below acceptable thresholds?
- What is working well? What could be improved?
- Do you need to change your plan? Have you managed all the risks?
7. Follow up
Continue monitoring on an ongoing basis. When you see signs of feral goat activity, implement control immediately.
Remember, feral goat control is time-consuming and there is no quick-fix solution.
There are a range of parasites and diseases that may provide some small level of feral goat population control in Australia. However these control agents do not have a large enough effect to provide any significant benefit. New biological control agents are unlikely to be released due to potential impacts on agricultural goat and sheep production industries.
This involves constructing a fence around highly feral goat sensitive areas on your property and decreasing feral goat movement from areas where they rest to areas where they feed.
Exclusion fencing is a non-lethal way of protecting high-value areas from feral goats however it is expensive and not practical at a large scale. Fences must be strong and high enough to exclude agile animals like feral goats that are excellent climbers and jumpers. Unfortunately no fence will guarantee complete protection from feral goats. Fences need to be regularly checked and maintained as once a breakthrough occurs, a fence becomes ineffective.
It is best to have fences erected by experienced or professional fencers.
While shooting is the most target-specific and humane form of feral goat control, it does not provide long-term, broad-scale control unless it is used as part of an integrated management approach. Due to the high reproductive capacity of feral goats, population numbers are likely to recover to original densities after only two years (or less) following successful shooting campaigns.
Ground shooting of feral goats is the most common form of shooting. However it is highly labour intensive and is likely to be opportunistic and uncoordinated. Ground shooting is unlikely to reduce the goat population enough to reduce the impacts of the pest unless the shooting is carried out in a coordinated fashion at a landscape scale. Where small isolated populations of feral goats exist, a coordinated ground shooting campaign may provide a useful management tool.
Aerial shooting of feral goats from a helicopter has become a common population control technique as feral goats often live in steep rocky terrain. Shooting feral goats from the air is suitable for control in a management program covering a large region of land where there is a high goat density. It is also highly target-specific, humane and cost effective where the terrain is suitable to detect and target goats on the ground and where shooting is carried out by an appropriately trained and skilled operator.
Aerial shooting is not cost effective in low density infestations due to the difficulty in finding widely distributed animals, nor is it suitable for areas with closed tree canopies.
The use of firearms to control feral goats must conform to relevant firearm legislation and be integrated with other control methods.
Mustering feral goats with the aid of dogs, motor bikes, helicopters or from traps placed around waterholes has become a popular way of managing feral goats. Mustering is only effective in range-land situations with a high goat density.
Mustered feral goats can then be commercially sold to recoup lost production due to feral goat impacts and the cost of muster. In isolation, mustering will not provide long-term feral goat control, as populations will quickly recover.
The value of feral goats sold from muster is generally less than the lost production resulting from a feral goat infestation. Managing feral goats as a resource doesn't manage impacts, such as overgrazing and erosion.
Trapping is an effective method for managing feral goats when their numbers are concentrated around water points and in high density infestations. Trapped feral goats may then be transported for sale or humanely destroyed on site.
Well-designed traps can be feral goat-specific, allowing access by feral goats but preventing access to non-target species. There are a range of trap designs but traps generally consist of a high sturdy fence around a water supply that has a one-way entrance.
The climbing and jumping ability of feral goats can be exploited by constructing a trap entrance that requires feral goats to climb or jump into the trap and they are then unable to escape. Trapping requires considerable time and cost for construction and ongoing maintenance of traps.
To comply with animal welfare legislation, traps must be checked at a maximum interval of 48 hours to minimise the time that trapped feral goats or non-target species are held.
Trapping has several animal welfare implications and anyone considering trapping should read important further information.
Other management techniques
Feral goats rely on stock watering points in many drier parts of Australia. Restricting feral goats from gaining access to water (when water is not required by stock) can be an effective way to control feral goat populations as part of an integrated management approach.
- Parkes J., Henzell R, and Pickles G. (1995) Managing Vertebrate Pests: Goats. Bureau of Resource Sciences and Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.