AN aerial shooting program of pest animals will be conducted next week in the Warby-Ovens National Park – a first time event for Victoria.
Local members of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) will today help flush out feral goats in the Warby-Ovens ahead of the cull that will also take in the Mount Mitta Mitta Regional Park.
Shooters will use this information to target two isolated goat populations that have escaped previous efforts to eradicate using standard control methods, largely due to the steep and rocky terrain.
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 neighboring properties.
SSAA conservation pest management member, Joe Rosicka, with his local knowledge of the Warby-Ovens, will take to the skies in a helicopter to pinpoint goat populations in readiness for the cull.
He will map out GPS coordinates of goat populations that are known as prolific breeders, having a gestation period of only 150 days.
“The damage feral goats can cause is dramatic and I have seen goats strip a hillside bare,” Mr Rosicka said.
“There are about 20 goats in the Warby-Ovens, but they breed very quickly and populations can double in 18 months.”
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.
Parks Victoria east regional director, Andrew Marshall, said NSW has a well-developed accreditation system for professional aerial shooting programs targeting goats.
He said this methodology offers benefits over alternative control measures where ground shooting, trapping or mustering are not viable due to inaccessible terrain.
The pilot program aims to test the effectiveness of aerial shooting in eradicating isolated goat populations and build local capacity to design and implement this type of program in the future.
“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,” Mr Marshall said.
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.
Both parks will be temporarily closed to protect public safety during the operation.
Parks Victoria is required to control feral pest numbers in the parks in accordance with legislation.