Moving closer to feral goat eradication and landscape recovery

News article |

In exciting news for the Adelaide Hills, eradication of feral goats from the Montacute area is almost complete. Since 2020 a staggering 2,700 of the damaging pests have been removed from the area. It is estimated that fewer than 50 animals remain in the area, and the environment is showing fantastic signs of recovery.

Whilst this is a great result, it’s never been more important for the community to report any sightings of feral goats on Feral Scan (www.feralscan.org.au). Reports can also be made directly to Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu on 8391 7500.

Feral goats in bushland are bad news, destroying native plants and the habitat of native animals, including threatened species, as well as impacting our drinking water catchments. To combat persistent populations in parts of the Hills and Fleurieu region, a recent control operation has successfully removed 62 of the destructive invaders from both private and public land.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu led the control effort spanning SA Water’s Kangaroo Creek Reservoir Reserve, ForestrySA’s Cudlee Creek, Coralinga and Hornes forest reserves, Montacute Conservation Park and Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park (Burdett’s Scrub), and 18 private properties. This latest operation has been hailed a resounding success and has come close to eliminating the ravenous pest in areas of critical conservation value. Their removal has huge benefits for the regeneration of native plant species, as the landscape continues to recover from the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfire. Eleven fallow deer were also removed, with blood samples from both goats and deer taken for analysis, helping to better track and understand any potential diseases posing risks to agriculture and human health.

Tom Kloeden, Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu’s Regional Coordinator for Grazing Pressure Management, explained how the operations are undertaken and the benefits they provide to the local environment and community.

“It is fantastic that we have come this close to eradication in the area, especially in a relatively short timeframe. Encouraging the community to keep reporting sightings is instrumental to eliminating the few remaining goats.

“Feral goats are voracious grazers, causing landscape erosion and substantial impacts on native flora and fauna, and primary production. In suitable habitats like the Mount Lofty Ranges, feral goat populations can breed rapidly, increasing their population by up to 75% annually, meaning a small number of feral goats can quickly become a large problem.

“Aerial operations enable us to efficiently find and remove a large proportion of the feral goat population. The aerial operations offer broad scale control across inaccessible terrain. Specially trained government marksmen are employed and stringent safety measures are in place to ensure public safety and animal welfare during all control operations. Ground-based control methods are also employed, using advanced equipment such as drones equipped with thermal imaging to efficiently locate animals. This combination of approaches has been the key to rapidly getting to where we are now.

“We greatly appreciate the collaboration with partner organisations and private landholders. Working together brings us closer to eradication with each operation. Working with private landholders enables us to address the problem wherever the goats are found.

“Landholders have a legal obligation to control feral goats and deer, by partnering with us they are able to fulfil their obligations under the Landscape Act. It’s free for them to be involved, so it’s a win-win situation.

“Our program is having a positive effect, showing a steady decline in feral goat numbers annually. For this operation we used almost 16 hours of flight time over four days, and while we saw far fewer goats removed compared to previous years, it’s a positive indication that our efforts are working and eradication is achievable. The closer we get to our target, the more important it becomes for local landholders and the general public to report sightings of feral goats (and deer). This provides the critical data needed to know where sub-populations are and help us plan future programs, it’s really important,” said Mr Kloeden.

Moving closer to feral goat eradication and landscape recovery

Impacts caused by feral goats in the Mount Lofty Ranges:

- Destruction of nationally endangered flora through browsing, trampling and tracking

- inhibiting the recovery of native vegetation after bushfires

- Increased predation on native fauna by cats and foxes, as dense, protective habitat is opened up by goat browsing

- Increased soil erosion and distribution of weeds within conservation areas

- Water quality reduction in Adelaide’s reservoirs

- Substantial damage to local primary production

- Road user safety concerns

The Regional Grazing Pressure Management program is led by Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu in partnership with the Department for Environment and Water’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, Green Adelaide, ForestrySA, SA Water, and private landholders, to control feral goats and deer, which are declared pests under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019.

Listen to Tom Kloeden speaking with Selina Green from ABC Country Hour about the outcomes of this operation.

Moving closer to feral goat eradication and landscape recovery

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