CONSERVATIONISTS say aerial shooting must be part of any control plan for feral horses and deer, two species emerging as a growing threat to the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park.
National Parks Association chief executive Kevin Evans said he realised shooting horses and deer posed a ‘‘classic dilemma’’ for governments because the idea would probably cause protests.
Read the Herald's editorial 'Controlling feral animals' by clicking here.
But the damage the animals caused threatened the qualities that led to the Barrington Tops gaining its World Heritage status.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has put its draft pest management strategy on exhibition until February 29.
The shooting suggestion has already outraged Animal Liberation NSW chief Lynda Stoner who described traditional culling practices as ‘‘Rambo-like’’.
‘‘Shooting and poisoning has obviously not worked for the
past 200 years, yet we continue to do it and the so-called problems continue,’’ Ms Stoner said.
‘‘Money would be better spent on sterilisation programs used effectively used in other countries.’’
But the National Parks Association, a non-profit group that promotes environmental conservation, says shooting is necessary.
‘‘Aerial shooting should be used wherever possible, where the topography suits, somewhere with open ground where there is a chance of getting a good clean shot,’’ Mr Evans said.
Hunter Environment Lobby president Jan Davis said while she considered shooting a ‘‘last resort’’, there was no doubt that feral horses and deer created problems for the environment.
They damaged plant species and their droppings introduced weeds, she said.
The service’s draft pest management plan shows the most threatening species are widespread throughout the Tops national park. Apart from horses and deer, other destructive pests include foxes, pigs and feral dogs.
A National Parks and Wildlife spokesman said pests were controlled through a range of mechanisms such as baiting, trapping, shooting and biological control.
The spokesman said there were no plans to poison horses and deer.
The service tries to control horse numbers with ‘‘low-stress’’ techniques, such as luring them into ‘‘yard traps’’ using molasses blocks or salt licks.
He said aerial shooting had been used to control feral goats and pigs in many areas across NSW. The aerial shooting of horses was not allowed under current policy.
The service’s Hunter Region, of which Barrington Tops National Park is a part, covers 268,900 hectares.
Mr Evans said the National Parks Association opposed hunting in national parks because hunters’ motivation was to kill animals and they were not part of a pest-management plan.