The control program is implemented under the 2008 Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan. The program utilises passive trapping and removal from the park and has occurred annually since 2002 (except for 2018 when control did not occur).
The control program adheres to relevant state and commonwealth guidelines and procedures to minimise the risk to the welfare of horses.
Bushfire recovery control program
The recent bushfires have impacted a third of Kosciusko National Park. A statewide emergency recovery plan to protect and restore wildlife populations is being implemented across parks estate. The plan includes support to wildlife carers and delivery of supplementary food and water to threatened species like the mountain pygmy possum.
To assist recovery, the plan also includes work to protect wildlife populations from pest animals. We have committed to the largest pest management program on national parks estate in NSW's history. This includes aerial shooting operations across fire-affected national parks, including Kosciuszko, targeting pigs, goats and deer, but also cats and foxes. Aerial baiting operations will also occur to target carnivorous pest animals, supplemented by trapping, shooting and ground-baiting where appropriate.
Scientific advice is that wild horses in the park will impede the post-fire recovery of vegetation and hinder the survival of native wildlife that depend on it.
While work continues on the new wild horse heritage management plan, there is a need for wild horse control as part of the Government's statewide post-fire response. The wild horse advisory panels have been consulted and have provided advice on control options.
Three broad areas have been prioritised for an immediate control program: these are around Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain, Kiandra Plain and surrounding areas. These locations are all in the north of Kosciuszko National Park and were affected by bushfire. They contain threatened species and sensitive ecological communities that are most vulnerable to trampling and other horse-related impacts.
All horses will be removed from the Nungar Plain area. Horse populations will be reduced in the management areas around Cooleman and Kiandra Plains to a sustainable level. It is estimated there are up to 4000 wild horses across these 3 areas.
This immediate control program will start in the first half of 2020. It will be supported by on-ground scientific surveys to track horse demographics, assess environmental outcomes (including water and aquatic ecology), animal welfare and cultural heritage condition.
The program will use control methods developed in close consultation with both advisory panels and will be informed by animal welfare assessments. The control methods will include passive trapping and mustering into trap yards. As with previous wild horse control programs, the aim will be to rehome as many horses as possible.
Those horses that cannot be rehomed will be transported to a knackery.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) completed a control program for wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park in spring 2019. The control program targeted the Blue Waterholes campground area, where there was a need to manage interactions between the public and wild horses to support safety objectives.
Control program outcomes
- Program dates: 15 October to 15 November 2019
- Number of trapping days: 16
- Horses removed: 99 (67 stallions, 24 mares, 8 yearlings and 0 foals)
- Horses rehomed: 68
- Horses sent to knackery: 28
- Total deaths: 3
- Non-trapping related deaths: 2
- 1 mare euthanised under veterinary and RSPCA advice due to poor condition (Body Condition Score 1)
- 1 colt euthanised under veterinary advice due to poor body condition and infected leg wound
- Trapping related deaths: 1
- 1 stallion died while being held in the trap yards due to a suspected head injury. No other horses were injured. Horse deaths in trap yards are a very rare occurrence in the history of the trapping and removal program.
- Non-trapping related deaths: 2
- Horses released: 25