Judas goats turn traitor in DOC culling campaign
THEY may be traitors to their species but a group of goats will perform an invaluable duty this summer helping to preserve the eco-systems of some of the Tararua region‘s most rugged areas.
Conservation Department rangers are using Judas goats to help eliminate the last vestiges of wild goats in the Tararua Range.
Judas goats are wild goats which are captured, fitted with transmitters around their necks and released back into the wild.
Wild goats are pests because they eat almost all vegetation from the ground up, causing land to become susceptible to erosion.
Because goats like steep bluffy areas and are excellent climbers, they are difﬁcult to eradicate.
Judas goats attract their mates, so when hunters go in they follow the transmitter signals.
It then becomes a cinch for the hunters to ﬁnd and shoot a bigger number of goats.
Conservation Department Wairarapa goat ranger Joe Hansen said the technique had been successfully used in the South Island for many years but had only just been introduced in the Wellington region.
“Goats used to be widespread in the Tararua Range. We are now getting on top of them. But it’s hard to get the last few,” Mr Hansen said.
Mr Hansen’s latest project has been the release of two Judas goats into the Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre, just north of Masterton.
“We guess there aren’t many goats left in Mt Bruce, as we’ve had a very extensive pest eradication programme.”
Next week, Mr Hansen and his colleagues will find out whether they were correct in their estimate when they go into the bush to retrieve their Judases.
Meanwhile, the department’s Kapiti office is about to start a similar programme on the Tararua’s western slopes.
Kapiti biodiversity manager Colin Giddy said 20 goats would be captured and then released in the next two weeks.
“Goat numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years, so our hunters are killing less than one goat a day.
“That’s quite tedious for the hunters and makes it more productive to use technology.”
The Judas goats were filled with bright orange collars to be sure they were not killed along with their kin, he said.
Photo caption – Dobbing in their mates: Feral goats fitted with radio transmitter collars are being used in goat eradication programmes in the Tararua Range.
Picture: SHANE GERBERT