Amending the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan: public consultation closed

Public consultation on a draft amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan occurred from 8 August to 11 September 2023.

The draft amendment proposes to authorise aerial shooting as an available method to control wild horses, in addition to existing methods such as ground shooting, trapping and rehoming.

The ability to conduct aerial shooting is essential if the wild horse population is to be reduced from the most recent (November 2022) estimate of 18,814 to 3,000 horses by 30 June 2027. This is a legal obligation under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 and the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan.

The draft amendment does not change the requirement to recognise the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations in the park and protect that heritage by retaining 3,000 wild horses in identified parts of the park.

The Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 enables the Minister to amend the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan. When adopted, the plan must be implemented by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Kosciuszko National Park is the largest national park in New South Wales and a place of global significance. It contains Australia's highest mountains, unique glacial landscapes, plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world, and diverse threatened species. The park also encompasses significant water catchments in the headwaters of the Murray River system and globally significant wetlands.

The park contains over 1,000 Aboriginal heritage sites and is culturally significant to Aboriginal people. Many sites throughout the park demonstrate the past and ongoing connection of Aboriginal people to the landscape, including archaeological sites and places associated with traditional stories and teachings. The park also contains many items and places of cultural heritage significance associated with Australia's pioneering and pastoral history.

These special values and attributes are recognised by the park's inclusion in the National Heritage Listing for the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves, the listing of parts of the park as internationally significant wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, and the declaration of assets of intergenerational significance within the park under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Wild horses are severely impacting the natural and cultural values of Kosciuszko National Park. They damage native vegetation by trampling and grazing, change the structure and composition of vegetation communities, cause soil erosion and compaction, disperse weed seeds, reduce water quality in streams and wetlands, and compete with native animals for food and resources.

Wild horses threaten the survival of at least 32 threatened native species and 4 ecological communities, including the broad-toothed rat, the southern corrobboree frog, the alpine she-oak skink and several plant species. The Australian Government's Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises that feral horses may be the crucial factor causing the extinction of some nationally listed threatened species.

Are wild horses a risk to visitors?

Wild horses are involved in many negative interactions with park visitors, including vehicle strikes and aggressive horses in and around campgrounds.

How do wild horses impact Aboriginal cultural heritage?

Wild horses can cause direct or indirect damage to sites through trampling, grazing, and erosion. Damage to Aboriginal sites in the park has been documented, where wild horses are known to occur in moderate to high densities.

In 2018, the NSW Scientific Committee determined habitat degradation and loss by feral horses as a key threatening process, identifying more than 30 adversely affected New South Wales and Commonwealth-listed threatened species and communities. These include:

  • the critically endangered southern and northern corroboree frogs
  • the endangered mountain pygmy possum
  • the endangered Guthega skink and Alpine she-oak skink
  • the vulnerable broad-toothed rat
  • the critically endangered Kelton's leek orchid and blue-tongued greenhood.

These are outlined in the table below, with names and threat status adjusted to reflect updated information since 2018 (including additional species* listed since that time).

Ecological community Biodiversity Conservation Act Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act Fisheries Management Act
Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens   Endangered  
White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Snowpatch Feldmark in the Australian Alps bioregion Critically Endangered    
Montane Peatlands and Swamps of the New England Tableland, NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps Bioregions Endangered    
Caladenia montana Vulnerable    
Mauve burr-daisy
Calotis glandulosa
Vulnerable Vulnerable  
Max Mueller's burr-daisy
Calotis pubescens
Archer's carex
Carex archeri
Raleigh sedge
Carex raleighii
Leafy anchorplant
Discaria nitida
Pale golden moths
Diuris ochroma
Endangered Vulnerable  
Clover glycine
Glycine latrobeana
Critically Endangered Vulnerable  
Pale pomaderris
Pomaderris pallida
Vulnerable Vulnerable  
Rice Flower*
Pimelea bracteata
Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Prasophyllum bagoense Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Prasophyllum innubum Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Kelton's leek orchid
Prasophyllum keltonii
Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Kiandra leek orchid
Prasophyllum retroflexum
Vulnerable Vulnerable
(listed as Prasophyllum morganii)
Alpine greenhood
Pterostylis alpina
Slender greenhood
Pterostylis foliata
Blue-tongued greenhood
Pterostylis oreophila
Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Anemone buttercup
Ranunculus anemoneus
Vulnerable Vulnerable  
Monaro golden daisy
Rutidosis leiolepis
Vulnerable Vulnerable  
Feldmark grass
Rytidosperma pumilum
Vulnerable Vulnerable  
Perisher wallaby-grass
Rytidosperma vickeryae
Alpine sun-orchid
Thelymitra alpicola
Black-hooded sun orchid
Thelymitra atronitida
Critically Endangered    
Swamp everlasting, swamp paper daisy
Xerochrysum palustre
Stocky galaxias (tantangara)   Critically endangered Critically Endangered
Northern corroboree frog
(Pseudophryne pengilleyi)
Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Southern corroboree frog
(Pseudophryne corroborree)
Critically Endangered Critically Endangered  
Alpine tree frog
(Littoria verreauxii alpina)
Endangered Vulnerable  
Guthega skink
(Liopholis Guthega)
Endangered Endangered  
Alpine she-oak skink
(Cyclodomorphus praealtus)
Endangered Endangered  
Mountain pygmy possum
(Burramys parvus)
Endangered Endangered  
Broad-toothed rat
(Mastacomys fuscus)
Vulnerable Vulnerable
(listed as Mastacomys fuscus mordicus)


The Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan identifies the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations in identified parts of the park. The plan requires 3,000 wild horses to be retained in 32% of the park to protect this heritage value. The proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan, including aerial shooting, do not change this requirement.

The wild horse retention areas contain evidence of wild horse heritage values, including the role of horses in pioneering history and pastoralism, traditional mountain practices, and the legends, stories and myths of the Snowy Mountains. This evidence includes tangible (for example, huts, campsites, yards, traps and tracks) and non-tangible (for example, personal and community connections) elements.  

National Parks and Wildlife Service is legally required to reduce the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park to 3,000 by the end of June 2027. Despite significant efforts by National Parks and Wildlife Service to increase the rate of wild horse removal since the plan was adopted in 2021, existing control methods will not enable the target population of 3,000 wild horses by this deadline. Control methods such as passive trapping and rehoming or removal to a knackery, and ground shooting are limited by several factors, including the size and terrain of the park, the mobility and distribution of wild horses, and a limited number of people willing and capable of rehoming wild horses.

On current trends, using the control methods approved under the current plan, it is estimated that the population of wild horses on 30 June 2027 will still be more than 12,000. With only the same methods in use, it is likely the population will not be reduced to 3,000 until 2030–31.

What could aerial shooting achieve?

  • It would enable the existing legal obligation to reduce the population of wild horses to 3,000 horses by 30 June 2027 to be met.
  • Achieving the population target within the required timeframe would deliver significant benefits for the environment and cultural heritage, reducing the extent of damage caused by wild horses and lowering the risk of extinction for several threatened species (compared to the use of currently authorised methods only, which will not reduce the wild horse population to 3,000 until 2030–31).
  • Best practice aerial shooting would deliver animal welfare outcomes comparable to or better than other available control methods.
  • Fewer wild horses would be killed overall because the population would be reduced within the required timeframe (June 2027) rather than being drawn out for several more years, while population growth continues; it is estimated the use of aerial shooting would result in approximately 8,000 fewer wild horses being killed to achieve and then maintain the target population of 3,000.
  • Risks posed by wild horses to visitors in the park would be reduced, including in high visitation campgrounds, walking tracks and on roads.

Would aerial shooting offer good animal welfare outcomes and what safeguards would be in place?

Best practice aerial shooting carried out by skilled, highly trained shooters under appropriate operating protocols delivers animal welfare outcomes that are comparable to or better than other control methods such as trapping or mustering, and transport to a knackery or shooting in trap yards.

Aerial shooting of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park would be carried out to the highest animal welfare standards. This would include the development of a standard operating procedure informed by independent expert veterinary and animal welfare advice, and involve ongoing auditing by animal welfare experts. The National Parks and Wildlife Service's standard operating procedures would meet Australian and NSW legislative requirements.

How would aerial shooting be carried out?

Aerial shooting would be very carefully implemented using our specialist shooters and aircraft to ensure it is safe and meets the highest animal welfare standards.

National Parks and Wildlife Service shooters are highly trained, accredited and competent, with hundreds of hours of experience in aerial shooting a range of feral animal species, including pigs, goats and deer. The latest state-of-the-art equipment is used in aerial shooting operations. Shooters must undertake specialised training and accreditation to undertake this work.

Why isn't reproductive control being used?

Reproductive control is not viable for the wild horse population in its current numbers and distribution in Kosciuszko National Park.

A trial of reproductive control options will commence when the overall population is reduced to 3,000 wild horses. This will assist in maintaining the population at 3,000 horses as required by the plan.

Why can't all the wild horses be rehomed?

Trapping and rehoming will continue as a control measure. However, trapping and rehoming in many parts of the park is not practicable or consistent with implementing the highest animal welfare standards.

In 2022 only around 400 horses were rehomed from the park. This rate is not sufficient to remove enough wild horses from the park.

Demand for wild horses to be rehomed from the park represents a very small number of those needing removal in the next 4 years. There are not enough people with suitable experience willing to take wild horses of any colour, size, age or gender and that can also meet the required standard of care to look after them. Rehoming cannot be implemented at the scale required to reduce the population to 3,000 wild horses by 2027, as required by the Act and the plan.

All authorised methods, including trapping and rehoming, will remain and be used as part of the ongoing implementation of the plan.


We know carcass management is a key concern for the community, particularly in areas of the park with high visitation.

The government has asked National Parks and Wildlife Service to implement a carcass management plan to minimise environmental, aesthetic and public recreation risks from the presence of carcasses.

Regardless of control methods, carcasses will not be left in major waterways. To the greatest extent practicable, carcasses will not be left within 400 metres of busy visitor areas such as campgrounds.

Some carcasses will be left to decompose in place and not moved or collected. This is standard practice for feral animal control on public and private land and is consistent with the longstanding practice in the park with deer and pig control. Carcasses are likely to decompose in approximately 4 weeks over the summer. Decomposition is slower in winter.

How would pigs and wild dogs be controlled?

We would implement enhanced and targeted control of pigs and wild dogs to ensure the temporary availability of carcasses does not lead to an increase in pigs or dogs.

If aerial shooting is introduced, rigorous protocols would be in place to ensure public safety. Specific plans would be implemented to protect the public and ensure visitor and neighbour safety. This would include notifications and closures of areas to public access while operations are underway.

National Parks and Wildlife Service has extensive experience in delivering safe aerial shooting operations over many years. Over 1,300 hours of aerial shooting occur annually in national parks and reserves, including in high visitation locations close to urban areas such as Royal National Park.

Could I still visit the park?

Yes, however, sections of the park will need to be temporarily closed if aerial shooting is conducted. This is consistent with our current procedures for aerial shooting. Plans would be in place to minimise impacts to popular visitor areas, allowing them to remain open as far as practicable.

Resort precincts would not be closed because wild horse control would not be conducted in those areas.

The wild horse survey uses the international best practice method for accurately estimating the population of large mammals over wide geographic areas, known as distance sampling. More than 1,500 peer-reviewed scientific papers use distance sampling for estimating wild animal populations.

The survey was designed and analysed by an expert from the University of New England. The results have been peer-reviewed by independent experts from CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

A scientific survey conducted in November 2022 estimated there were 18,814 wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park with a 95% confidence interval of 14,501 to 23,535. By law, National Parks and Wildlife Service must reduce the population to 3,000 wild horses by June 2027.

How would we know when the target of 3,000 wild horses has been met?

Wild horse surveys will occur each year, whether the amendment is implemented or not, to ensure the populations are tracked regularly into the future to support meeting the statutory population target.

Once the population target of 3,000 is reached, ongoing wild horse control will maintain the population at that size and in the existing wild horse retention areas identified in the current plan.

Kosciuszko National Park's ecological health is being measured and reported in one of the most comprehensive ecological monitoring programs for any national park in Australia. This work is part of National Park and Wildlife Service's groundbreaking ecological health monitoring program aimed at improving the health of NSW national parks by tracking key ecological indicators and using that data to refine management actions.

Actions to measure and report on Kosciuszko National Park's ecological health include:

  • surveillance monitoring at 125 sites stratified by vegetation type and fire history across the park, which includes 500 camera traps
  • targeted monitoring designed for specific species, vegetation communities and/or ecological processes to get more detailed information on their park-wide occurrence and how their population and/or condition may change over time. This monitoring will include:
    • important threatened communities, such as alpine bogs and fens
    • species that have small distributions and are iconic or threatened, such as the Guthega skink and anemone buttercup
    • water quality attributes, including for alpine glacial lakes, providing information on park-wide catchment health
  • measuring the extent of threats of fire, weeds and feral animals, including:
    • monitoring of feral animals, designed to track the population or density of all significant feral animals such as cats, deer and horses
    • monitoring to track the area of occurrence for ecologically significant weeds
    • key metrics on the impact of fire will be measured and reported on, such as fire extent, frequency and intensity across the park and in selected vegetation types.

Monitoring results will be considered during the implementation and review of the current wild horse management plan.

Charlottes Pass lookout, Kosciuszko National Park


Kosciuszko Summit, Kosciuszko National Park