Goat (feral) (Capra hircus)

  • Photograph of the side-view of a white feral goat with long horns
    Feral goat (Capra hircus)
  • Photograph of a herd of feral goats on overgrazed land
    Herd of feral goats

General information

Goats were domesticated by 7500 BC and were valued for their ability to exploit land of low productivity and areas that could not be used by humans. Another advantage is that goats are easily controlled with little labour. Meat, milk products, and fibre are useful products.

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

You can participate in national feral goat mapping by reporting populations.

The feral goat is a Class 2 declared pest animal under Queensland legislation. It is the responsibility of landholders to control feral goats on their land.

Scientific name

Capra hircus

Description
  • Vary from white to brown to black.
  • Descended from angora and cashmere breeds.
  • 80% of Australia's feral goats produce cashmere.
Habitat
  • Commonly found in rugged terrain.
  • Home range usually centred around a water supply.
Distribution
  • Arrived in Australia with the First Fleet and introduced to inland areas by early settlers, miners and railway construction workers.
  • Found over much of Australia.
  • Greatest numbers in the semi-arid pastoral areas of Western Australia.
  • Australiahas about 2.3 million feral goats, with an estimated 240,000 feral goats in Queensland.
Life cycle
  • No defined breeding season in arid areas.
  • Mating occurs from January to June in temperate areas.
  • Gestation period is 150 days.
  • Twins are common.
  • Adults weigh about 45kg for females and 60kg for males.
Impacts

Economic

  • Compete with domestic stock for pasture, damage fences and reduce the profitability of pastoral and agricultural industries.
  • Negative impacts in many areas are balanced by the positive impacts of harvesting for slaughter.

Environmental

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

Social

  • Potential to transmit diseases to domestic animals.
Natural enemies
  • Wild dogs and dingoes
Control
  • A population of goats is capable of doubling in size every 1.6 years in the absence of death caused by human control activities. To prevent populations from increasing, approximately 35% of the population must be removed each year.
  • For commercial goat harvesting operations to be viable, capture methods must be economical. More expensive methods may be justified in the control of exotic diseases or for environmental protection.
  • Feral goat control or management depends on market influences. In times of good prices, feral goats are harvested. When prices or feral goat densities are low, little control is undertaken. Effective management of feral goats for agricultural or conservation benefit must be ongoing and cannot rely on market forces.
  • Feral goat management is more effective when combinations of techniques are used and control is carried out over large areas.
Mustering
  • Mustering by motorcycle or horse with the aid of dogs may achieve good results, especially if employed by local residents who opportunistically take advantage of the tendency for feral goats to aggregate into larger herds.
  • It is important to muster only that number of goats that can be confidently handled. Escapees can become cunning, and retreat from the herd or go to ground at the next muster.
Shooting
  • Ground shooting is labour intensive but can produce good results if control programs are well planned and the effort is maintained. Helicopter shooting is extremely effective and can result in a rapid and substantial reduction in goat numbers when there is no extensive cover in the form of dense scrub, caves, or rock piles.
  • However, helicopter shooting is expensive and is used only when the need for a reduction in feral goat numbers is great and when cheaper alternatives are not available.
Trapping
  • Goats may be trapped at water if alternative watering points are not available. Traps consist of a goat-proof fence surrounding a water point that is entered through one-way gates or ramps. There are a variety of designs for these gates or ramps, which permit the goats to enter, but not to exit. These traps can also be used for domestic stock management. It may be possible to close off troughs and dams and thereby direct goats to a central watering point.
  • Trapping using food as an attractant has been found to be unsuccessful.
Declaration details
  • A declared Class 2 species under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.
  • Introduction, feeding, keeping, releasing and supplying is prohibited without a permit issued by Biosecurity Queensland.
  • Landholders are required to control declared pests on their properties.

Last updated 19 October 2012