Introduction

Feral goats are found in a wide range of habitats. They range from sea level to the alpine zone, living in introduced and native grasslands, scrub and forest.

Find out about feral goats (Capra hircus).

Description

Feral goat.
Feral goats are found throughout New Zealand in both the North and South Islands

Size: Adult male goats in New Zealand stand around 60-80 cm at the shoulder and weigh an average of about 42 kg.

Females are smaller (shoulder height around 60-70 cm) and lighter (average around 30 kg) than males.

Colour: The coat is generally short haired with variable amounts of underfur. The hindquarters of both sexes, and the neck and shoulders of males may be shaggy.

Colour wise, they can be black, white or brown, or any combination of these. All males and some females are bearded as adults.

Horns: In New Zealand both sexes have horns. In females they are slender and curve upwards and backwards, with a clear space between the bases. In males the horns are larger and sweep up and backwards or up and outwards in an open spiral. The horns may touch at the base. The horns are not shed annually like antlers but are retained for the life of the animal.

Feral goats.
Goats live in groups of mixed ages often containing both male and female animals

Males are the largest sex, with clearly heavier forequarters, shaggier coats and larger horns. There is great variability in the colour, pattern and length of the coat, and in horn form and body size, related to the breed origins and nutritional condition of local populations.

Social behaviour: Goats are highly gregarious living in groups of mixed ages often containing both male and female animals. Being browsers goats will eat a wide range of plant material including shrubs, trees, grasses and weed species such as blackberry, brier rose and gorse.

During summer months goats tend to feed early morning and late afternoon with periods in the middle of the day spent resting whilst ruminating. In winter with its shorter days goats will be found eating throughout the day. Goats dislike wet conditions and in inclement weather will seek out shelter from rain and wind.

Reproduction: In New Zealand there is virtually year round mating, often peaking November-December, with most females breeding in their first year. When about to give birth, females move away from the group and it can take up to a year before integrating back with other goats occurs. A high percentage of twins are born.

Gestation period: 5 months.

Birthing: Can be any month.

Nomenclature: Males = billy. Females = nanny. Young = kid.

Where to hunt

Feral goats are found throughout New Zealand in both the North and South Islands. Concentrations of goats can be found in Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Marlborough and Otago.

Goats occupy a wide range of habitat and can be found from sea level to the alpine zone, living in introduced and native grasslands, scrub and forest.

Because they are browsers, their preferred habitat is forest or scrub-covered upland containing areas of grassland. They are agile on steep crags and narrow ledges and can get to areas that deer can't reach. They like sunny sides of slopes, making use of open places close to the shelter of forest or scrub.

Some landowners keep goats to control weeds such as blackberry and gorse so always check boundaries of hunting areas.

Feral goat.
Goats can be easier to hunt and stalk compared to deer, but in areas often hunted they can become very wary

Tips for hunting feral goats

Goats can be easier to hunt and stalk compared to deer, being slower moving and extremely inquisitive, but in areas often hunted can become very wary.

When caught out in the open, goats will on first shot, often stand and try to locate the source of the noise. If, however, they have been subjected to previous hunting pressure they may immediately depart from the area, usually in single file.A shout or a whistle will frequently cause them to stop and look back.

When hunted in a forest interior, the basic rules of stealth, observation, and wind direction that apply to deer should be followed.

Characteristic/BehaviourHunting response
Goats are medium sized animals with male goats especially being able to absorb poorly placed bullets. Calibres of .222 and above are suitable for shooting goats.
Can be extremely inquisitive especially in areas that receive little hunting pressure. If disturbed, wait, as often won't go far and may stand to see what the disturbance was. Can often be called in by imitating another goat.
Often in small groups or 'mobs'. If trophy hunting and encounter a mob in forest/scrub cover, and the situation allows, watch for a while as a hastily taken shot may scare of a larger trophy animal.
Usually quite vocal, calling to each other. Listen carefully when hunting to locate animals.
Male goats especially emit quite a pungent smell. When hunting your sense of smell may be the first indicator of goat's presence. Once smelt check which way wind blowing, direction smell strongest to locate goats.
Can be very active during the day. Goats can be encountered feeding any time of the day so need to be alert at all times.
Goats have very good eyesight and an acute sense of smell. Stalk upwind especially in open country.
Goats will adapt their behaviour to the prevailing weather, hence in heavy rain will seek shelter, on sunny hot days shade and in windy conditions will often avoid exposed slips etc. When hunting take into account weather conditions and seek out likely shelter etc.
Although goats will eat most vegetation they do have preferences and will often seek out preferred species such as broadleaf and mahoe.

Hunt through areas of preferred vegetation especially if uncommon in area being hunted.

Hunting seasons and ballots

Feral goats.
Winter is a good time to hunt feral goats as it is the end of the mating season and the males are still with the females

In New Zealand there is no seasonal restriction to hunting feral goats meaning generally they can be hunted throughout the year. There are however instances where restrictions apply for specific reasons and periods when hunting is favoured.

Specific restrictions

  • Some areas may be closed during periods of high fire danger.
  • Occasionally an area may be closed on a temporary basis to enable research or other management to be undertaken without being compromised by hunting.

It is important to check for these conditions with the DOC office nearest the hunting area.

Favoured hunting periods

Winter is a good time to hunt goats as it is the end of the mating season and the males are still with the females, coats are at their best and damp conditions may add a hunter.

Hunting with dogs

  • Goat hunting with dogs is a common method utilised throughout New Zealand and hunters using dogs should be aware of the following.
  • If taking dogs onto public conservation land this needs to be recorded on the hunting permit.
  • In some areas dogs are not permitted.
  • Check that intended hunting area hasn't recently had pesticides applied. See pesticide summaries.
  • For many areas where there are ground nesting birds, bird aversion training for dogs is mandatory with proof of training required.
  • Every effort should be made to recover lost dogs and informing local landowners or DOC may help.
  • To comply with animal welfare requirements, goats at the 'bail' should be dispatched as quickly and humanly as possible.

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