Aerial vision reveals feral horse nightmare in burnt-out Kosciuszko National Park

Media Release |

New aerial footage and eyewitness accounts from iconic Kosciuszko National Park reveals horrific fire damage and the survival of huge numbers of feral horses now pushing threatened species closer to extinction.

“The picture is becoming clearer as photos and video emerge from Kosciuszko National Park showing threatened species habitat hit hard while the 20,000 strong population of feral horses has largely been unscathed,” ANU Professor Jamie Pittock said.


  • Vision for download includes mobs of feral horses roaming burnt out Kosciuszko National Park and interview with Prof Jamie Pittock.
    Photos also available for download.

“Flying over the park I saw extensive areas incinerated by bushfires and habitat of four of the park’s most threatened animal species degraded by fire and feral horses,” Prof Pittock said.

“There were large mobs of feral horses trampling the small areas of regrowth vegetation in wetlands and along stream banks.

“Feral horses are moving en masse into unburnt areas and massively compounding the damage already inflicted on the park by the bushfires.

“Australia’s plants did not evolve to withstand trampling by hard-hooved animals or their intensive grazing. The horses are degrading the wetland headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River, one of the key sources of south-east Australia’s water.

“A third of Kosciuszko National Park has been burnt out and active fires remain in the area.

“The native wildlife that survived the Kosciuszko bushfires is struggling for survival while 20,000 feral horses roam the burnt out country targeting the remaining vegetation.

“One of Australia’s rarest and most iconic creatures, the critically endangered corroboree frog, had large areas of its habitat burnt and what remains is at even greater risk of being trampled by feral horses.

“Habitat of the alpine she oak skink, the native fish stocky galaxias and the hamster-like broad-toothed rat has been extensively burnt and what is left is being over-grazed by feral horses.

“If we don’t immediately reduce feral horse numbers the consequences for Kosciuszko National Park and its unique Australian native animals will be horrendous.

“Our native wildlife will needlessly suffer as hard-hooved feral horses trample sensitive alpine habitat in the search for what little food remains.”
Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said the NSW government must intervene.

“The NSW government must step in and save Kosciuszko National Park from the nightmare scenario of thousands of feral horses destroying what little habitat remains by initiating immediate aerial shooting to bring numbers down,” he said.

“The NSW government must also repeal the absurd legislation that protects feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park.”

Data released just before Christmas revealed feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park have exploded.

“Five years ago we had about 6000 feral horses roaming Kosciuszko National Park, now there are at least 20,000 and it looks like most of them, unlike our native wildlife, outran or escaped the fires,” Mr Cox said.

“Claims that horses survived because they reduce fuel loads are baseless. The areas burnt this summer were dictated by winds and hot conditions. Heavily grazed areas between Kiandra and Mount Selwyn were totally incinerated.

“In 2003, major bushfires in Kosciuszko National Park burnt more than 70% of the areas occupied by feral horses and killed about half the horse population, leaving about 2400 horses.

“The feral horse population has since exploded due to a failure by successive state governments to control numbers.

“The stakes have never been higher. Now is the time to act.”

Help protect NSW!

Our expert team has written a list of policy asks detailing exactly what the next NSW government needs to do to stamp out some of the worst invasive species impacts across the state. But they will only become a reality if every key political candidate at the 2023 NSW state election hears about it from you!

Dear National Deer Management Coordinator,

Please accept this as a submission to the National Feral Deer Action Plan.

[Your personalised message will appear here] 

I am very concerned about the spread of deer and am pleased that a national plan has finally been developed. Without urgent action, funding and commitment from all levels of government it is clear that feral deer will continue to spread and damage our environment.

The feral deer population in Australia is growing rapidly and spreading across the country, damaging our natural environment, causing havoc for farmers and foresters and threatening public safety. Unlike much of the world where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with these heavy hard hooved animals with a voracious appetite.
With no natural predators and an ability to adapt to almost all environments, they could occupy almost all of Australia unless stopped. Despite this, state and territory governments have been slow to respond and in Victoria and Tasmania they are still protected by law for the enjoyment of hunters.

This plan should be adopted by all governments but must also be underpinned by dedicated funding and clear responsibilities. A plan without funding or accountability is a plan that will fail and Australia cannot afford for this to fail.

In order to prevent the spread of feral deer and reduce their impact on our native wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture, I ask that the following recommendations be adopted for the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

1. All federal, state and territory governments should adopt the National Feral Deer Action Plan and declare feral deer to be a priority pest animal species.

2. All federal, state and territory governments should commit to:

  • Contain deer to the existing large population areas.
  • Reduce and eradicate smaller and isolated populations.
  • Protect important environmental assets such as world and national heritage areas.
  • Develop and fund regional plans and strategies to manage deer populations which involve land managers across all tenures.

3. In order to drive action and the success of this plan, there should be dedicated Commonwealth funding and support for:

  • A permanent national feral deer coordinator position.
  • A permanent federal feral deer action committee with representatives from the commonwealth and state and territory governments and the environmental and agricultural sectors.
  • An ongoing public education campaign on feral deer.
  • A network of regional feral deer coordinators to drive local action across tenures.

4. The expected outcomes for the plan need to be more ambitious, with clear interim targets including:

  • Within one year, all States and Territories should have in place arrangements to implement the National Feral Deer Action Plan, including allocating dedicated funding for implementation.
  • Within one year, feral deer management plans should be developed for key environmental assets of national significance, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
  • Within five years coordinated landscape scale management should be in place where land owners, land managers, government and community are demonstrably working together.

5. A national feral deer containment map with three zones should be adopted. It should be more ambitious than the zone map in the current draft plan and there should be greater clarity in the naming of the zones. Improvements that should be adopted include:

  • Renaming the zones to better reflect the management intention to ‘Containment Zone 1’ (the current large population zone), ‘Containment Buffer Zone 2’ (the current buffer zone) and ‘Eradication and prevention Zone 3’ (the current small isolated population zone).
  • The NSW northern rivers area should be in the eradication and prevention zone as there are few feral deer currently in this region and eradicating isolated populations and preventing spread into this area is still possible.
  • The whole of South Australia should be in the eradication and prevention zone as eradication is the goal of the SA Government.
  • The Tasmanian region in the containment zone should be smaller to reflect greater ambition and potential for eradication of deer populations.
  • In eastern Victoria areas such as Wilson’s Promontory, Westernport islands and the Mornington Peninsula should be in the eradication and prevention zone.

6. There should be consistent laws and regulations across all states and territories that:

  • Recognise feral deer as a pest animal and treat them as such.
  • Establish a clear responsibility for all landholders and managers to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • Set clear penalties to stop the wilful or negligent release of feral deer.
  • Prevent new deer farms in areas where no feral deer are present and phase out all deer farms in the eradication and prevention zone.
  • Enable enforcement of compliance, including on government land.

I support the follow principles being adopted in the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

  • Feral deer are a pest and should be treated as such on all tenures, except on approved deer farms.
  • Federal, state and territory governments have a responsibility to fund the outcomes under this plan.
  • All land managers in areas where feral deer are present have a responsibility to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • The focus of management efforts should be on eradication of isolated, satellite populations, protection of key environmental assets currently impacted and stopping the spread to new regions.
  • Feral deer control should be undertaken humanely, safely and professionally according to agreed protocols and all tools which meet this criteria should be adopted, including aerial control.
  • Funding for coordination, regional planning and community engagement is necessary for effective feral deer management.
  • Ongoing management and follow up control efforts are required to achieve long lasting results.
  • Rules and regulations should be consistent across jurisdictions and land tenures.
  • Recreational hunting is not an effective strategy for feral deer control and should not be relied upon.
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your suburb], [Your state]