Antelope may look cute, but the Department of Conservation (DOC) says they are a terror to New Zealand’s native forest.

They came with European settlers, initially for food and the fiber of their coats as well as weed control.

Some have escaped or have been released and are thriving in the native forest. It is not known exactly how many there are – but it is estimated that there are several hundreds of thousands.

They are thought to occupy 14% of New Zealand – mostly on public conservation land.

But some efforts to control the pest are successful.

1News met hunter Jason Hart at Pirongia Forest Park in the Waikato region, and a target for DOC hunting efforts.

In the share, 843 bucks were killed in the 2021-2022 hunting operation, which involved 1427 hunting lodges on public conservation land. Another 200 goats were killed on private land nearby.

This was just one site in the Department of Conservation’s goat control program.

“A good job at low density you might only get one or two in a week, but if you’re doing a knockdown operation the numbers can be fifty to a hundred in a day per shooter,” explained Hart.

“They specifically browse on a lot of the palatable species so they can breed very quickly and increase in numbers, so we need to be able to destroy them and keep them at a low level.”

The key to successful hunting operations was the specially bred dogs, Hart said.

“We use sniffer dogs, so they go out to hunt themselves and secure the bucks and then we use tracking dogs that sneak up on a scent and take you to the buck.”

DOC’s Tinaka Mearns said the type of damage goats can do to conservation land can be “devastating.

Wild goats in particular don’t really care about borders like we do and that’s why they cause a lot of destruction,” she said.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the population we have here so we can see more of our forest come back.”

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