Essential, effective, humane: New data reveals over 239,000 feral animals removed with aerial shooting in NSW in past 3 years

Invasive Species

The Invasive Species Council have today released data which reveals that, in the past 3 years, 239,034 feral pigs, feral deer and other feral animals were removed by the National Parks Service and Local Land Services using aerial shooting. This compares to just 15,378 removed through ground shooting and 17,547 removed by trapping.

The release of the figures comes ahead of a decision to be made in the coming weeks by NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe on whether to allow aerial control for feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park. A federal Senate inquiry into the management of feral horses is also due to hand down findings this Friday, 6 October.

“Invasive species like feral deer, cats, horses and pigs are an environmental disaster in Australia. They trash and trample streams and wetlands, strip the bark from trees and are pushing our native wildlife to the brink of extinction,” said Invasive Species Council Advocacy Manager Jack Gough.

“The numbers we have released today paint a clear picture. Aerial shooting by highly trained professionals accounted for almost 90% of the over 270,000 feral animals removed by the NSW Government using shooting or trapping in the past 3 years. 

“No one likes to see animals killed, but the sad reality is that we have a choice to make between urgently reducing feral animals or accepting the decline and extinction of our native animals.

“Aerial shooting is a safe, humane, routine, effective and essential tool for feral animal control in NSW. 

‘When it comes to managing the out-of-control feral animal populations, we need all available tools in the tool box. Without aerial shooting, particularly with thermal imaging, we will not be able to achieve meaningful population reduction at the scale needed to protect our native wildlife and ecosystems.

“The NSW government’s own animal welfare review highlighted that aerial shooting is a humane way to reduce feral horse numbers when undertaken by highly trained professionals.

‘If we want to protect the Snowy Mountains, headwaters of the mighty Murray, Murrumbidgee and Snowy Rivers and home to more than 50 threatened species like the corroboree frog and mountain pygmy possum, then we need to dramatically reduce feral horse numbers now.

“The outdated ban on its use for feral horses in our national parks must change or feral horse numbers will keep growing and our native wildlife will pay the price,” Mr Gough said.

What the data reveals

The Invasive Species Council have obtained NSW Government data for the number of feral animals killed by Local Land Services (available here) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (available here) in NSW using aerial shooting, ground shooting and trapping for the past 3 financial years (2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23).

  • Removals through baiting are not included in the data. The species are broken down into feral deer, feral pigs and other feral animals.
  • 271,959 feral animals were removed across NSW using aerial shooting, ground shooting and trapping by the NSW Government (National Parks and Local Land Services combined) in the past 3 years.
  • This included 191,952 feral pigs, 32,362 feral deer and 47,645 other feral animals (such as goats, foxes and cats).
  • Of these, 88% were through aerial shooting (239,034) compared to 6% for ground shooting (15,378) and 6% for trapping (17,547).
  • There was a 288% increase in total removals between 2020/21 and 2022/23 (51,619 to 148,650).
  • From 2019 to 2022, Local Land Services engaged in 3,624 hours of aerial shooting
  • At least 245 feral horses have been killed by Local Land Services using aerial shooting since January 2021.
  • In the Southern Ranges National Park Region (which includes Kosciuszko National Park), aerial shooting comprised 82.1% of the feral animals removed.

About the Invasive Species Council

The Invasive Species Council campaigns for stronger laws, policies and programs to protect Australia’s native plants and animals from environmental weeds, feral animals and other invaders.

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