Feral goat

Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, goats have been domesticated for thousands of years. Domestic goats are valued for their meat, milk and fibre, and their ability to exploit land that is otherwise inaccessible or of low productivity.

Goats were brought to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788, and were introduced to inland areas by early settlers, miners and railway construction workers. Escaped and released goats established feral populations. Today, Australia has about 2.3 million feral goats, with the greatest numbers in semi-arid pastoral areas of Western Australia. Most are descended from cashmere and angora breeds, with 80% of feral goats producing cashmere.

Feral goats can cause major agricultural and environmental damage. They compete for pasture, damage fences, and reduce the profitability of pastoral and agricultural industries.

You can support a national feral goat mapping project by reporting feral goat populations.

Feral goat is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Capra hircus

Description

  • Small, hooved animals, with males weighing around 60kg and females around 45kg.
  • Coat varies from white to brown or black.

Habitat

  • Commonly found in rugged terrain.
  • Home range usually centred around water supply.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Estimated 240,000 feral goats, mainly in western Queensland.

Life cycle

  • No defined breeding season in arid areas.
  • Mating occurs January-June in temperate areas.
  • Gestation period is 150 days.
  • Twins are common.

Affected animals

Native animals; domestic animals

Impacts

Economic

  • Competes for pasture, damages fences, and reduces profitability of pastoral and agricultural industries.
  • In many areas, negative impacts are balanced by positive impacts of harvesting for slaughter.

Environmental

  • Contributes to overgrazing, which can cause soil erosion and other forms of land degradation.
  • Reduces diversity of plant species through selective feeding.

Social

  • Can transmit diseases to domestic animals.

Natural enemies

  • Wild dogs, dingoes.

Control measures

  • Goat population can double every 1.6 years if not culled or controlled. To prevent increases, around 35% of population must be removed each year.
  • For commercial goat harvesting to be viable, capture methods must be economical. More expensive methods may be justified to control exotic diseases or for environmental protection.
  • Feral goat control is often influenced by market forces. When prices are good, feral goats are harvested. When prices or feral goat densities are low, little control occurs. Effectively managing feral goats for agricultural or conservation benefit must be ongoing and cannot rely on market forces.
  • Feral goat management is more effective when techniques are combined and control is carried out over large areas.

Mustering

  • Mustering by motorcycle or horse with dogs may achieve good results, especially if done by local residents who take advantage of goats' tendency to aggregate into larger herds.
  • Muster only numbers that can be confidently handled. Escapees can become cunning and retreat from herd or go to ground at next muster.

Shooting

  • Ground shooting is labour-intensive but can produce good results if control programs are well planned and effort is maintained.
  • Helicopter shooting is extremely effective and can rapidly and substantially reduce goat numbers in areas where cover is not extensive (e.g. dense scrub, caves, rock piles).
  • However, helicopter shooting is expensive and used only when needed to reduce feral goat numbers is great and cheaper alternatives are not available.

Trapping

  • Goats can be trapped near water if alternative watering points are not available. Traps consist of goat-proof fence surrounding water point that is entered through one-way gate or ramp. Traps can also be used to manage domestic stock. May be possible to close off troughs and dams and direct goats to central watering point.
  • Trapping using food as attractant has been unsuccessful.

Legal requirements

  • Feral goat is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be moved, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

More information