Shooting trial off to cracking start

DESPITE the driving rain and muddy conditions, licensed amateur hunters were allowed into Cocoparra National Park on Saturday for day one of the state's controversial three-year shooting trial.

Four volunteer hunters accompanied by two National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) supervisors took part in the trial at Cocoparra which has been introduced as a method to cull feral goats running rampant through the park.

Cocoparra National Park was closed for the weekend while the shoot took place though on Friday, NPWS staff who have co-ordinated the strategy were dubious it would go ahead due to poor weather conditions.

The team was briefed at Griffith's NPWS office on Friday.

Aerial shoots have been utilised as a method of keeping goat numbers under control, but NPWS pest animals program leader Ben Russell said the goats had learnt to hide when they heard the sound of a helicopter.

"The weekend (was) about testing policy and procedures and testing all systems," Mr Russell said.

"It's very task and issue focussed and the four shooters went through an extensive training framework."

Mr Russell said the goats presented a destructive "landscape issue" particularly in regard to regenerating native vegetation.

They also posed significant problems for surrounding farmers.

"They compete with stock for food and water and this is a major problem, especially in times of drought," he said.

"Most people have been supportive of the trial, especially when they know it's been fully supervised."

Cocoparra was identified as one of 12 reserves state-wide to participate in the trial, which was negotiated after Premier Barry O'Farrell struck a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party.

NPWS pest management officer Jason Neville said the service had made a large commitment to neighbour notification.

"The trial will supplement what NPWS staff are already achieving from the air, but on the ground," Mr Neville said.

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