Kosciuszko National Park wild horse control 2019

National Parks and Wildlife Service is undertaking a control program for wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park in spring 2019.

The control program targets high-use visitor areas, including locations where there is a need to manage interactions between the public and wild horses to support safety objectives.

The control program is implemented in accordance with the 2008 Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan. Control 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.

The spring 2019 control program will focus on the Blue Water Holes campground and surrounding area. To facilitate the safe conduct of the control program, Blue Water Holes Trail between the Cooleman Mountain campground and Blue Water Holes campground will remain closed until the end of November.

More information about track and campground closures

Frequently asked questions

Kosciuszko National Park encompasses 673,542 hectares and is NSW’s largest national park. The park contains outstanding natural and cultural features and is the source of the Snowy, Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. 

Extensive scientific research has occurred and continues to occur into the impact of feral animals on the park, including pigs, deer and horses. While pigs and deer are known to cause impacts, scientific evidence indicates that wild horses also cause soil compaction and loss through erosion. They damage waterways and reduce water quality through river bank collapse, compaction and channelling. Wild horses also reduce native vegetation coverage, contributing to loss of habitat for native species such as the Broad-toothed rat, and placing further pressure on a range of threatened plants and animals. As such, “Habitat degradation and loss by Feral Horses (brumbies, wild horses), Equus caballus” is a key threatening process listed in the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. There are known to be at least 6000 horses in the park (based on 2014 estimates).

All other feral animals in the park, including pigs, foxes, deer, cats, rabbits and dogs, are being controlled by separate strategic and integrated pest control programs.

Wild horses are also a risk to public safety. Multiple vehicle collisions with wild horses have been recorded on the Snowy Mountains Highway. As a result, a number of horses have been killed and private vehicles damaged. Wild horses are also a risk to visitor safety in park campgrounds and may cause damage to private vehicles and camping equipment. This safety issue has been exacerbated by some campground visitors feeding horses, which further encourages horses into these areas.

Until a new management plan is developed in accordance with the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 control of horses still occurs under the 2008 Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan. The 2008 plan allows NPWS to control horses through passive trapping and removal. Trapping and removal has occurred annually since 2002 (except 2018 when no removal occurred).

The number of horses removed depends on factors such as weather and access, but given the targeted control program this spring, there is likely to be only a small number of horses removed. Further control is planned for this summer in the south of the park.

In accordance with the specific requirements for the land transport of horses (Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – Land Transport of Livestock 2012), only those horses that are fit to be transported will be removed from the park. Heavily pregnant mares and mares with very young foals at foot will be released back into the park. Horses that are injured or ill will be assessed for suitability for transport under the guidelines.

Applications for horses can only be made directly to NPWS for 5 horses or more.

If you would like to rehome 4 or less horses please contact the NPWS wild horse team at npws.wildhorses@environment.nsw.gov.au who will put you in touch with rehoming organisations or individuals.  As these horses may have received basic handling and training by the rehoming organisation or individual, they are often the best option for potential owners seeking to take only a small number of horses.

If you would like to rehome 5 or more horses, please contact the NPWS wild horse team npws.wildhorses@environment.nsw.gov.au who will provide you with Rehoming Guidelines and an application form. These horses are unhandled and untrained.

More information about rehoming Kosciuszko wild horses

Wherever possible, horses removed from the park are rehomed. Rehoming groups and individuals applying to NPWS to take horses must complete an application form which also acknowledges the applicant’s commitment to adhering to animal welfare standards. NPWS may consult with RSPCA NSW to assess applicants and inspect the horse’s new homes where deemed necessary.

Seeking homes for horses removed from the park is a priority for NPWS wild horse control programs. However, if there is not sufficient demand for horses, some that cannot find a home will go to a knackery. In all cases, transport and holding facilities must adhere to relevant welfare standards.

Horses that are not able to be rehomed will generally go to a knackery instead of a sale yard because overall this is considered to cause less stress to the animal. Wild horses are unaccustomed to the human-built environment. Horses sent to a knackery have short holding times. Horses sent straight to sale yards are likely to have much longer holding periods in a high-stress external environment with an unknown final outcome.

In spring 2019, horses are being removed from high use visitor areas in the north of the park. This will require closure of certain public areas to allow safe control to occur.

More information about track and campground closures

Removal can occur throughout the year in the northern end of the park when conditions are suitable. Removal generally only occurs during summer in the southern part of the park when roads are dry enough to be trafficable.

No, horses are not killed in trap yards unless it is for animal welfare reasons such as significant injury or illness.

No. The lures used to coax horses into trap yards are called ‘baits’ by some people. Lures used are food attractants such as salt, molasses and/or lucerne hay.

NPWS currently uses passive trapping where horses are attracted into trap sites with food lures. Panels are slowly erected around the lures, allowing the horses to become accustomed to them. Horses are not mustered – they enter the yards of their own accord. Trapped horses are sorted on-site and loaded onto stock crates for transport. In the north of the park they are transported to a formal holding area before being finally transported off-park.

The 2019 spring control program is a targeted program focussing on high-use public areas. Trapping can occur throughout the year in the northern end of the park when weather and access conditions are suitable. Foaling can occur at any time of the year in the park.

Additional management procedures implemented at this time of year include minimising the length of time horses are confined in trap yards. Heavily pregnant mares and mares with very young foals will be released from trap yards back into the park. These animals are identified using criteria previously supplied by the RSPCA.

An annual trapping and removal program has occurred in the park since 2002 (except in 2018) and NPWS staff are experienced at managing horses in trap yards. Pregnant mares and very young foals have been humanely managed during past operations. The welfare of the horses is paramount and will be continuously assessed throughout the program. NPWS will postpone the program if it considers welfare standards are compromised. NPWS continues to work with the RSPCA during its control operations to ensure the program meets high animal welfare standards.

Until a new plan is adopted, wild horse control continues to occur in accordance with the 2008 Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan. In 2019 the spring control program will focus on high visitor use areas to support public safety objectives.

The 2014 population estimate was approximately 6000 horses in the park with an annual rate of growth of 6 to 17 per cent. This control program is targeted towards specific high visitor use areas and is likely to remove only a small number of horses.

The Act recognises the cultural heritage value of wild horses in the park but also allows for their management and control in order to protect the environmental values of the park. The Act requires a wild horse heritage management plan to be prepared for community consultation and adoption.