SSAA lends a hand in Victorian national parks culling programs

SSAA Victorian Conservation & Wildlife Management (CWM) members have played their part in a four-day Parks Victoria feral goat culling program in the Murray-Sunset National Park. A total of 459 feral goats were removed during the period of Tuesday, June 9 to Friday, June 12, with 95 per cent of animals sighted destroyed. Very few other pest animals were spotted.

The Sunraysia Daily in Mildura reports that the shooting program is part of the Mallee BioFund project that has cut the number of feral goats in the national park by hundreds. In all, 500ha was closed for four days with no negative feedback from the public.

The scheme involves no one single method, but aerial shooting was used, which means teams made up of a helicopter pilot, a spotter and two shooters. SSAA members then move in once the helicopter has left the scene. Parks Victoria staff and a vet are also in the area to assist with clean kills. For the latest cull, independent vet assessment reported animal welfare was compliant with the standard operating procedure.

SSAA Nhill Branch conservation program coordinator Gary Clarke said the SSAA had assisted in removing more than 6500 goats from the national park since 2003. Parks Victoria spokeswoman Tanya Smith said that feral goats had damaged native vegetation, increased erosion and prevented regeneration of native buloke, slender cypress-pine and belah trees.

The SSAA has also been working in tandem with Parks Victoria on a pig-trapping program, which resulted in 28 pigs being killed last year in Barmah National Park. Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority project manager Tim Barlow told the Shepparton News, “Feral pigs in Barmah National Park are an on-going management issue and their control, along with that of cats and foxes, will remain a high priority.”

Further problems with pest animals in Barmah National Park were highlighted by an investigation using motion sensor cameras to monitor nocturnal habits of wildlife on the prowl for food. More pest animals - chiefly foxes, feral cats and rabbits - than native creatures were picked up by the cameras as part of a project to assess the impact of control initiatives. The cameras had been set up throughout the park twice a year for a two-week period.

Meanwhile, the Free Press Leader reports that volunteer shooters from the SSAA and the Australian Deer Association have linked up with Parks Victoria to help with deer culls in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, Yellingbo and Gruyere. These culls saw 100 deer shot last year.

This comes as an environmental group is calling for more deer to be culled to protect native species and vegetation. Parks Victoria has issued permits for 220 deer to be shot in the Dandenong Ranges. However, Monbulk Landcare Group secretary Bill Incoll wants even more taken, saying that vegetation had “noticeably improved” in the areas where the culls had been carried out. He said the culls should continue in the current locations, but should also be extended to zones where the deer population was still on the rise.

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