Goat (Feral) Capra hircus
Species: C. aegagrus
Subspecies: C. hircus
Trinomial name: Capra hircus
Common name: Feral goats, Goat,
Capra hircus is a goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species, and have been used for their milk, meat, hair, and skins over much of the world.
Goats arrived in New Zealand as early as 1773, when Captain James Cook released them ashore in the Marlborough Sounds during his second voyage to New Zealand. Early explorers, whalers, sealers and settlers also bought goats with them for food, to use them as barter with the Māori, to establish a commercial skin industry and for weed (gorse, blackberry, briar) control on developing land.
The descendents of those that escaped or were deliberately released thrived in the country’s grass hills, forest and scrubland areas.
Feral goats are found in 14% of New Zealand in a wide range of habitats from sea level to the alpine zone on both main islands and a few offshore islands were in the late nineteenth - early twentieth century they were released to provide a food source for castaways.
New Zealand’s total goat population size is unknown but is estimated to be several hundred thousand.
New Zealand’s native plants are particularly vulnerable to damage from browsing. Herding browsers such as goats cause two-fold damage by eating native plants and by trampling large areas of vegetation and compactable soils. Goats will eat the foliage of most trees and plants and quickly destroy all vegetation within their reach, eating seedlings, saplings and litter-fall off the forest floor. They do however have strong preferences and will eat out favoured species first such as broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) and māhoe (Melicytus ramiflorus) before moving on to less desirable plants. Goats will also strip bark off trees and by eating young seedlings they effectively put a stop to forest regeneration.
They are very agile and on steep crags and narrow ledges they can get to areas deer can not reach. They like the sunny sides of slopes, making use of open places close to the shelter of forest or scrub.
Goats can be white, brown or black, or any combination of these. All males and some females are bearded as adults. Males are the largest sex, with clearly heavier forequarters, shaggier coats and larger horns than the females.
Feral goats were classified as wild animals under the Wild Animal Control Act 1977.
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