Feral Goat Control

History

Goats arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. As they were small and hardy, ate a range of plants and provided milk and meat, they were convenient livestock for early European settlers. During the 19th century, sailors released goats onto islands and some areas of the mainland for emergency food. Certain breeds were imported for their hair.

More recently, goats have been used to keep plantation forests and inland pastoral land free of weeds. Feral herds developed as these domestic goats escaped, were abandoned or were deliberately released.

Feral goats now occur across 28 per cent of Australia. They can be found in all states and territories and on some offshore islands, but are most common in the rocky or hilly semi-arid areas of western New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

There are at least 2.6 million feral goats in Australia but numbers fluctuate enormously with drought, management programs, and high fertility so it is very difficult to accurately assess numbers.

Feral goats have a major effect on native vegetation through soil damage and overgrazing of native herbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees. This grazing can cause erosion and prevent regeneration. They foul waterholes and can introduce weeds through seeds carried in their dung. Particularly during droughts, feral goats can compete with native animals and domestic stock for food, water, and shelter.

For example, they may threaten some yellow-footed rock wallaby populations by competing for rock shelters and food, leaving the wallabies exposed to a greater risk of predation by foxes and wedge-tailed eagles.