Matho’s blog: Conservation hunting

Conservation hunting does work and the ABC’s Landline program “Wild Goat Chase” today showed us how, featuring the collaboration between Parks Victoria and the Sporting Shooters Association.

SSAA shooters have culled about 4000 goats from Murray-Sunset National Park, which was suffering huge amounts of damage and degradation as the feral pests thrived in the massive and remote region.

The conservation teamwork has been going on for more than seven years and Parks rangers and shooters seem to love it.

Landline reports that three trials over several years to get rid of goats through trapping and other means ended in failure. Shooting was the only viable answer.

“It’s been proven up here now,” SSAA shooter Kent Goldworthy told Landline. “We knew it before but it’s actually been proven that shooting is the only way to cull these animals down to a realistic number.”

There’s no arguing with the outcome, says Parks Victoria ranger Robert McNamara, who coordinates the hunters as the ABC follows them on a cull.

“I would say many, many thousands of animals were here initially,” he says.

“And then when the guys have come on, you know, between the two groups Mildura and Nhill [branches of the SSAA], they’ve taken out over 4000 animals now in that seven years.

“So you know, that’s been a monumental effort from those guys.”

Landline shows recovering native bush, and McNamara is clearly happy with it.

The SSAA wants this to be the blueprint for a national program – a fact Landline makes quite clear.

But that’s not quite as good as you might think. A handful of shooters are replacing paid cullers and it does not open up hunting opportunities for everyone. On the contrary, schemes like this can become closed shops.

In some ways, it is a great thing that volunteer shooters have cost taxpayers nothing but spent $70,000 of their own money while wiping out feral animals.

But making it more widespread will not necessarily benefit Australia’s hunting culture. It will only force us to become the equivalent of unpaid commercial cullers. It still requires direct input and manpower from rangers and it does not give us the independence to make our own hunts.

As one way of doing things, the Parks Victoria-SSAA collaboration has a place but we should not allow it to be the only way we get access to public land. Victoria already knows that hunting on public land doesn’t need to be heavily regulated, thanks to the experience of thousands of deer stalkers, and we should not forget this.

Hunters will happily join authorities to cull pests when necessary, but we’d rather maintain a presence in all parts of the country,all the time, to keep those problems from developing.

Check out Landline’s “Wild Goat Chase”, which is well worth watching. It shows why the antis are wrong about shooting as a conservation tool, but ask yourself if the model it portrays is what you really want.


Mick Matheson




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.