Feral Goats

​​Not Wanted!Status: Goats (Capra hircus) are considered to be domestic stock in Tasmania and ownership needs to be determined before any action is taken to destroy animals. Unauthorised shooting of goats could result in legal action and has potential to undermine eradication efforts.

Risk Assessment: Threat Abatement Plan for competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats (Commonwealth of Australia)

Identifying Features

Feral goat - Photo by Shaun Reynolds - Courtesy IACRC

Feral Goat
Image: Shaun Reynolds, Courtesy of IA CRC

Male goats (billy goats) are generally larger than females (nanny goats), with both being 1-1.5 metres in length. The coat can be shaggy or short; and varies in colour from white, brown or black or a combination. Both sexes have permanent horns.


Goats first arrived in the Australian landscape with the first fleet in 1788. They were small and easy to transport, hardy and ate a range of plants - as well as providing milk and meat for the early years of a growing colony.

During the 19th century sailors released goats onto islands to provide for emergency food supplies. More recently, goats have been used to keep plantation forests and inland pastoral land free of weeds. Feral herds developed as these domestic goats escaped, were abandoned or were deliberately released. There are now estimated to be at least 2.6 million feral goats across the Australia.

In Tasmania, many feral goat populations probably built up in the 1980s from the offspring of haphazard escapes and releases: crossbred varieties are common.


In Tasmania, more than 160 herds of feral goats have been identified by NRE Tas since 1991. Feral goats have been recorded in various habitats, including rainforest and within the boundaries of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA).

View recorded distribution information in Natural Values Atlas
View recorded distribution information in PestSmart Connect Toolkit

Environmental Impacts

Feral goats invade bush and browse a wide variety of native plants including blackwood, drooping she-oak, native cherry, coffee berry, round-leaf riceflower, rough dogwood and forest germander. No plant species are immune from goat damage. Goats can climb trees and break off limbs up to 3m off the ground! Locally, trampling by goats may lead to soil erosion. In areas where there is useful stock feed or plantation, browsing by feral goats may be economically significant. Feral goat herds also act as reservoirs for sheep parasites and diseases.



Feral goats can breed twice a year, with twins and triplets being common.


Domestic goat keeping is the source of new feral populations in Tasmania, and there is always the risk of reinfestation by feral goats through escapes from domestic herds. Overcoming the problem of feral goats in Tasmania depends on owners of domestic goats keeping their stock inside fences, and disposing of unwanted animals responsibly. Keep them inside the fence and stop the spread! In Tasmania's rugged terrain, shooting by trained professionals is the best option for humanely eradicating feral goat populations.


To report feral goat sightings in Tasmania, or for advice on feral goat management, please contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 or by email to: biosecurity.tasmania@nre.tas.gov.au

Did you know?

Goats are sociable animals and 'Judas goats' (goats with radio-collars attached) can be used to locate hard to find goat herds.

Further information

The PestSmart Connect Toolkit provides information and guidance on best-practice invasive animal management on several key vertebrate pest species including rabbits, foxes, feral pigs and feral cats.

See other invasive mammals:

Foxes | European rabbits | Feral pigs | Feral cats | Ferrets | Wild dogs

See other invasive species:

Birds | Freshwater species | Other species


Biosecurity Tasmania

Fax: 03 6173 0225