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Feral goats

Goats (Capra hircus) were introduced to New Zealand in the 1770s. They were first liberated as a food source and to clear weeds, and later to provide fibre for commercial industries. Goats were easily domesticated, and as a result were moved throughout the country as land was cleared for farming and settlement. Populations of wild goats have largely been a result of escapees from farms and deliberate releases.

Photograph of wild goats

On this page: What goats look like, Where you can find them, Responsibility for control, Controlling feral goats, Useful contacts, Other publications

Unlike domestic goats, feral goats don't have any identification or branding, and are not contained.

Wild goats are browsers rather than grazers. They cause considerable damage to under-storey vegetation up to two metres above the ground, damaging young trees in exotic forests and along replanted soil-conservation areas. The effect of goats destroying undergrowth, coupled with the effects of possums browsing the canopy, results in significant and often permanent damage to native vegetation.

Goats are agile animals, able to exploit steep hill slope areas unsuitable to other animals. The loss of vegetation in these areas may lead to increased erosion. Goats were recognised as a threat to New Zealand’s native vegetation from the 1890s and were identified as a major pest in the 1930s.

What goats look like

Male goats stand around 70 cm high at the shoulder and can grow to 1.5 metres in length, weighing between 50-60 kg. Adult females are considerably smaller. Both sexes may be white, black, brown or a combination and have horns. Male goats have chin beards and a pungent smell. Both sexes have a flat tail that is bare on the underside.

Where you can find them

Feral goats are widespread throughout the Waikato region. Populations are generally highest on reverting farmland on steep hill country, but they are also found in exotic and indigenous forests, and scrub-lands.

They are hardy animals and will adapt to most environmental conditions. Their characteristic habitat is forest or scrub covered hill slopes, but they will move to grasslands where the opportunity arises.

Responsibility for control

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has the primary responsibility for goat management under the Wild Animal Control Act. Current government policy is to control goats in areas of highest conservation priority.

DOC has prioritised goat control in 24 locations in the region, covering over 14,000 hectares. The 24 locations are listed in the table below:

Lakeshore reserves (Taupo) Tongariro/Waiotaka Rivers (Turangi)
Tirohanga reserves (North Taupo) Moehau (Coromandel)
Mt Pirongia Mt Karioi
Tararau Moeotoa
Whareorino Hapuakohe
Kakepuku Ruakuri Caves
Mangatutu Mapara
Kennedy Bay Otama
Central Coromandel Waiomu
Castle Rock Whenuakite
Southern Coromandel Waipapa
Pureora Waihaha


Goat control is generally undertaken in conjunction with possum control in these areas. Land owners/occupiers adjacent to the above priority goat control areas may be directed by an authorised person to control wild goats on their land.

A constant problem with goat management is their dual identity as both farm resource and pest.

Our Regional Pest Management Plan aims to prevent the escape of farmed goats into areas of regional ecological significance, and to reduce populations of wild goats in key areas to a level where significant environmental damage does not occur.

Controlling feral goats

One of the best methods of control for private land owners/occupiers is shooting. Every person shooting must either hold a firearms licence or be under supervision of a person who holds a firearms licence and is over 20 years of age. You should inform your neighbours where and when you intend to shoot. This may be an opportunity to co-ordinate your efforts with neighbours.

Contact Waikato Regional Council or the Department of Conservation to discuss shooting techniques for goats.

Useful contacts

For additional advice and information on effective methods of control contact Council's Pest Animal staff on 0800 BIOSEC or the Department of Conservation.

Other publications

Regional Pest Management Plan