Bushfire recovery control program
The summer 2019-20 bushfires impacted a third of Kosciuszko 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 control program started in the first half of 2020. It is supported by on-ground scientific surveys to track horse demographics, assess environmental outcomes (including water and aquatic ecology) and animal welfare.
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. 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.
Post-fire control program – interim outcomes (as at 15 December 2020)
Control program outcomes* to 15 December 2020:
- Program dates: 23 July to 15 December 2020
- Number of trapping days: 37
- Horses removed: 343
- Horses rehomed: 325
- Horses sent to knackery: 14
- Total trapping-related deaths: 4
- 1 mare and 2 colts died in separate incidents while being held in the trap yards due to suspected head or neck injuries. 1 mare died in the NPWS temporary holding 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.
- Horses released: 169
- The control program is ongoing and will continue in 2021.
- Horses are released if they do not meet NPWS current criteria for removal and includes heavily pregnant mares and mares with young foals.