Parks Victoria will remove the entire population of brumbies from the Bogong High Plains, and significantly increase the annual rate of removal of feral horses from the eastern Alps.

Key points:

  • Rehoming will be a key feature in Parks Victoria’s latest Feral Horse Action Plan
  • The entire Bogong High Plains brumby population will be removed
  • More than 2,800 submissions were received during the plan’s development

Under the new plan, aerial shooting will also be used to cull brumbies if other methods fail to remove enough feral horses to reduce their ecological impact in the alpine region.

The Victorian government today released its latest action plan to reduce feral horse impacts and better protect the Alpine National Park.

The latest survey shows there are about 5,000 feral horses in the national park.

The plan outlines that the Bogong High Plains brumby population of about 100 horses poses a significant threat to high-altitude wetlands, and they will be completely removed within three years.

The plan will also see the removal of up to 500 feral horses in the eastern Alpine region in its first year, and annual removal targets will be developed based on feral horse population surveys in the following years.

An alpine landscape looks over rolling mountains

Conservationists welcome a plan to protect vulnerable species by removing feral horses from the Alpine National Park. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)

From 2008 to 2018, between 150 and 200 horses were removed each year from the Alpine National Park, but Parks Victoria’s report warns that figure was not sufficient to reduce the overall annual population of feral horses or mitigate damage caused by them.

Parks Victoria said a key component of the Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 was to maximise rehoming opportunities for captured horses, with an expression of interest process open to suitable applicants.

It stated, however, that there had been limited response to repeated and direct public calls for interest in the rehoming program.

During the period of the 2018-21 Action Plan to February 2021, 57 feral horses were removed by trapping from Mount Nelse and the eastern Alps, and 83 feral horses were removed by roping from the eastern Alps.

A creek has horse hooves marks on the banks and muddy water

Feral horse damage at a creek crossing at Davies Plain in north-east Victoria. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)

Parks Victoria will no longer include roping, also known as brumby running, as part of the feral horse control methods used in national parks by staff, contractors or volunteers, due to health and safety concerns.

Ground shooting by accredited operators will be continued in the latest plan, and authorities will establish and maintain small-fenced exclusion sites to protect species at high risk of extinction.

Fertility control has been ruled out as a way to manage the brumby population.

“It is critically important to increase efforts to protect this rare and sensitive landscape, which has been in decline for decades,” a Parks Victoria spokesperson said.

“The approach to feral horse management detailed in the Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 is built on increased knowledge and experience, to reduce the threats feral horses bring to Victoria’s special High Country native wildlife and habitats.

Parks Victoria stated the effectiveness of its Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-21 had been hindered by legal action, bushfires and the pandemic.

An aerial shot of a valley with fenced of areas that are filled with grass

Parks Victoria will fence off vulnerable areas to protect them from feral horses. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)

Plan welcomed by conservationists

The latest plan has been welcomed by the Invasive Species Council, which labels the removal of the Bogong High Plains brumby population as an important start.

“Ideally we need to get these feral horse populations down to as close to zero as possible if we are to give our native wildlife the best chance of survival,” conservation director James Trezise said.

“Particular in the Bogong High Plains, there’s a range of sensitive alpine bogs up there that are protected and critically endangered under national law, so it’s really important we get that population down to zero as quickly as possible.”

He said a full suite of options needed to be made available to control the brumby population.

A farmer stands next to his white brumby petting its head. He wears a wide brim hat and brown oil skin jacket.

Cattleman Phil Maguire led a push to save Victoria’s brumbies in the Bogong High Plains, ahead of a planned cull by Parks Victoria in June 2020.(ABC News: Steven Schubert)

Rehoming will grow

High Country cattleman Phil Maguire has taken legal action against the Victorian government in the past in a bid to stop his beloved brumbies from being shot under the feral horse management plan.

He said he was pleased there appeared to be a bigger focus on rehoming rather than shooting under the latest plan, and expected more people to take that up.

“I think trapping is going to be the mainstay of the program.”

The Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 received more than 2,800 submissions through public consultation in 2017 and 2021.

In search of a stable life: Plan to rehome hundreds of brumbies from Victorian Alps
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