Where have you seen the impacts of wild horses in the National Park? Are there areas where you have found no impacts of wild horses?

by Catherine Russell, over 3 years ago
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Chris Hayward is an adventurer who this year undertook an expedition from Sea to Source to Summit - starting at the mouth of the Murray River and paddling upstream to Hume (Weir), where he left his kayak and then continued on foot through to the Corryong and Khancoban following the upper Murray and Indi Rivers to its Source at Cowombat Flat, then followed the Australian Alps Walking Track to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko. 

He talks here about seeing wild horses and their impacts on the National Park.


Mbidgee over 3 years ago
I haven't been in the park recently, but I imagine there is no damage by horses in the Yarrangobilly caves, or the bitumen roads and carparks. Otherwise, if you look hard enough, there will be evidence of horses wherever they occur. But the damage may be minimal in the tall wet forests, or the dry shrubby forests. It is the soft habitats such as creeksides, bogs and fens and where the heavy horses congregate that the damage would be most critical, and to protect these habitats from feral horses there is a need to reduce numbers there. However, because horses are mobile and will continue to move in and collect in higher numbers in some favoured places, horses will have to be controlled across the park.
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Zelig over 3 years ago
Agree, but note the only effective and sustainable longer term solution is the complete eradication of feral horses from the Park. Once that is achieved, the situation will have to be monitored to remove any new ingressions from outside the Park area.
Zelig over 3 years ago
I have seen extensive damage in the Long Plain area. Significantly, the deep tracks cut by the horses represent a danger to walkers, as well as damage to the environment. In fact, as reasonably experienced walkers my wife and I followed one of these tracks mistakenly for quite a while thinking it was the correct trail.I like animals, but I believe the damage done by wild horses in the NP is unacceptable and irresponsible. In fact I do not think we are doing the horses any favours by allowing them to continue as a pest population, subject to various forms of capture or culling. The only sustainable objective for the Park is the removal of the horses, and this means all the horses. There is an element of urgency, given the extent of the damage. Whilst it will take time to eradicate the horses from the Park, the process should be given high priority and adequate resourcing. Shooting is, unfortunately, unavoidable. This has to be faced up to if we are to meet our responsibilities as a community in terms of maintaining ecological values for future generations.
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Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Zelig, Do you have a photograph of long Plain's deep tracks? May be caused by animal drawn carts earlier in KNP, often attributed to horse damage. In 15yrs trail riding I never saw the tracks get deep. This trail riding company had around 70 shod horses a week using their tracks, only vehicle wheel tracks did damage that escalate to erosion that required grading every few years. I have seen Kangaroo pads that look like walking tracks going short distances.I support the need to maintaining ecological values for future generations. To me responsible community covers many differing interests & values, as this forum shows. I see a need to balance Brumby numbers within sustainable levels for future generations to appreciate, understand and enjoy in KNP as part of our cultural heritage, living with nature and its conservation in an ecologically sustainable way. Regards, Bio-Brumby
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Zelig over 3 years ago
Thanks for your comments. I do not have photos but I have been around the bush long enough to know they were not kangaroo pads nor old cart tracks. They were fresh and used tracks. By deep, I mean a few inches deep, probably not deep enough to cause erosion, but clearly having a real impact on the environment. There were quite a few of these trails disappearing off into the distance. Besides getting lost for about an hour, I was disconcerted by seeing quite a few brumbies in a short space of time.I have no problem with trail riding enterprises. Impact is controlled, and can be readily mitigated. However there is no place for feral horses in the NP. Arguments over the extent of damage are pointless. There clearly is damage and at a significant scale. The feral horses are not part of our cultural heritage. They are an unfortunate accident of our occupation and use of the alpine areas. There is nothing romantic in that, nor does it represent any sort of achievement. The fact that Banjo Patterson wrote a stirring ballad does not justify their continued presence in the Park. Trail ride outfits such as yours can maintain any links to this history without the need for on-going environmental damage. I really do not feel like going back to the Long Plain area just to be distressed by the obvious environmental damage and intrusion of the feral horses. As I said previously, it is time to come to grips with the real problem and look to the eradication of feral horses from the Park.
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Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Zelig, I do not describe 2 inches depression 'deep', though I respect that you do. Kangaroo pads appear to me around 2ins deep - how deep are kangaroo pads you see? My point on trails I rode (I was a client, not the owner) for 15yrs was they stayed the same and never became so evident as vehicle tracks I saw. We will have to agree to disagree on where wild horses fit into 'our' cultural heritage, while acknowledging our cultural heritage is defined by a mix of all Australians. The 'real problem' perhaps is to represent a balanced view of all Australians - so views like yours and mine can be considered as a balance of both extremes. Regards, Bio-Brumby
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Zelig over 3 years ago
Yes we will have to agree to disagree. One point of clarification was that I said the tracks were a few inches deep, not two inches.
laura over 3 years ago
Every animal leaves some remnants, wombats dig up earth and can destroy habitats just as horses can. but wild horses are migratory, they may cause slight change to soft ground around water sources but they will soon move on to find better feed and move up or down in altitude depending on season giving the environment plenty of time to regenerate. i have worked with horses my whole life and i start and train horses for a living, they are extremity intelligent animals, wild horses are dependent on intricate family groups comprised of a mature male, several mature females and there young offspring, watching the silent language between the group (and its interactions with other groups) is breathtaking, in fact there are countless horse training methods and philosophy based on wild horse. areal culling is extremity cruel, because of the terrain of the snowy mountains (very steep and high tree cover) it would be near impossible to get a clean shot, meaning wounded horses would suffer for days if not weeks in severe pain eventually dyeing of starvation, thirst or exposure. young foals would be left defenseless to freeze to death. those intricate complex family groups would be ripped apart. personally i don't think there is enough evidence to warrant extreme population culling but if there was then why not re-home them. brumbies can make awesome horses. contrary to popular belief brumbies are not inbreed. i stallion will not breed with his daughter and young horses are kicked out of there family group when they reach sexual maturity. natural selection plays a huge roll in keeping the breed strong and adapted to the conditions.brumbies have every right to be in the snowy mountains as snow goers do. i'm damn sure snow resorts cause a lot more damage to the natural environment then horses do but no ones complaining about that because parks NSW are making money out of it.
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I think this comment is largely the same as the one in another thread. As I said there the group of horses around Dead Horse Gap are always in that area - I've seen them every year for the last 6-8 - not giving the area much time to regenerate.Looking at info elsewhere less than half of the currently trapped horses are rehomed - and that is at a trapping level that has not stopped the population growing. There would seem to be little chance of any horses caught in a "bigger" trapping program being rehomed - they would just go to the knackery at great expense.
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Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Peter_mcc, I agree that less than half of the current horses trapped are rehomed. However in my view, the trapping program has had a significant impact on lowering Brumby numbers. Research can show the level each ecosystem can sustain Brumbies, we can select removal options accordingly. If significant numbers need removing and the area is not accessible by ground vehicles, Brumbies trapped can be humanely shot by a stationary shooter aiming at stationary target. It is sad for me to say this, but I firmly believe the fore’s & against need to 'bend' towards a balanced mid position so a robust ecology can cope with its Brumby numbers. To me this is a win win result, thought I am not sure if you would agree. Regards, Bio-Brumby
Doc over 3 years ago
The damage caused by horses in southern parts of the Park is immense, especially to wet areas. In particular the Murray (Indi) source area between The Pilot and Cowombat Flat has been devastated. My first visit to this area was in Dec 1978 at which time there where few horses and the wet areas were unpugged and thickly vegetated (have photos). On a return trip in April 2000 the difference was stark - horses everywhere and the wet areas destroyed. On the 1978 trip we walked out via Cascade Hut and saw no horses near there. On a recent trip to that Hut area (Jan 2012) there were horses all over, not only in the valleys where the bog damage was obvious, but also higher up in thick tree cover. I have never seen feral horses above the treeline or in the area from Island Bend up to Kiandra. Probably though it is only a matter of time before there are feral horses in large numbers throughout the whole Park unless something is done to control them properly. What is the point of it being National Park when so many large feral animal causing massive damage are left uncontrolled? May as well let cattle back in too!!!
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ProtectParks over 3 years ago
Couldn't agree more. Walked from Cobberas to Cowombat Flat in 2006 and Dead Horse Gap to Tin Mine in 2007 - very bad damage to waterways around Tin Mine. Definitely not pig damage and sat and watches horses doing the damage right in front of us. The last sentence of your comment, "May as well let cattle back in too" is, of course, the intent of some. They wouldn't tolerate thousands of horses eating the grass of their cattle and would eradicate them without hesitation.
Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Doc, I visited the Pilot area early 2014 and asked a ranger to quantify the damage level there, the answer was ‘moderate’. The key is the proportion of damage. I saw damage between the 2 Cowombat exclusion zones [often used against Brumbies]. Considering the 2 exclusion zones cover the stream and funnel access to water between the 2 zones, plus the Australian Brumby Management Association’s (ABMA) camp site a short walk from the damage area where the AMBA regularly conduct Brumby Running, using dogs, by agreement with Parks Victoria; the ground marks seemed understandable. I prefer to see the damage level quantified across the whole area, sustainable levels identified, and Brumby populations managed so the benefits of their presence continues. Regards, Bio-Brumby
Khankhan over 3 years ago
Of further concern is the spread of horses into parts of the park where they were not in before. I have seen a lone horse each at Selwyn (west of the ski resort) and also on Fifteen Mile Ridge. The Fifteen Mile Ridge horse does visit the unusual hanging bog where major treatment is being conducted for the control of Orange Hawkweed (OHW). There are also other very major OHW sites on that ridge. Volunteers and staff working on the sites, have a policy and action of washing their boots when leaving the area. Rather hard to get the horses to do that. So far the Fifteen Mile Ridge stallion (and I believe a mare too) have eluded the trap yards placed there.The Gungarlin Valley is another area where horse numbers have increased from a countable few (and rarely seen) to large mobs and significant damage both in the wet areas of creeks and drainage lines, but also as they cut chunks of turf from the plains as they gallop 'romantically' by. These areas should be given priority for the removal of horses and more effective methods than passive trapping used. Time is not on the environment's side.
JBD over 3 years ago
Agree with Peter. There is also extensive damage and vast tracks made by wild horses in the Long Plain area. The piles of horse poo are massive! Boggy areas are trampled and damaged. I have also seen horses just below the Abbotts range (between Townsend and Kosy) close to the tree line. There must be a significant impact on the vegetation given the increasing number of animals across the Park area.
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HVBA Vice President over 3 years ago
Fun Fact: Stallions poo in the same spot virtually every time, this is why the poo piles are so massive, we see it in the paddocks they have a pile and they poo there, its part of marking their territory, they are called stallion piles. This is why you often see them at the side of the road and on walking tracks, they are smelling the strangers (people) that have been passing through and telling them to keep moving because they own that land. Every time they walk past that area of their territory they see that pile, go sniff it, make sure it smells right, and then top it up again so everyone knows who lives there. Competing stallions will sometimes try and mark over the top of each other so it could even be more than one horses worth that you are looking at. These piles are often a week or mores worth of poo (depending on the rain etc) not just one days worth, its not like every horse makes a pile that big every day. Another example of why people who don't know wild horses might think the impact they are having is greater than it is, because they see a large pile and think wow if every horse does one of those every day the park must be covered, when this is not the case at all.
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
That's interesting - I wondered why the piles were so big! I realised they were from more than one "movement" (so to speak) but not why they came about.
Themba over 3 years ago
Other than coming across some horse manure I couldn't honestly say that I have seen evidence of horse damage. I have seen plenty of damage by Wombats and also plenty of their manure but I can only honestly say that because it's hard to miss their huge holes and manure or mistake it for anything else! The horse manure I have seen has mainly been concentrated along walking tracks.
peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I've seen damage in the Dead Horse Gap area - both on the track towards Thredbo and the other way towards Tin Mines Hut. I haven't been many other places recently so can't comment on where there is no damage...