Bushfires and drought have driven a sharp fall in the number of wild horses roaming through Kosciuszko National Park but the population is still too high, the NSW government says.
A survey recorded more than 14,000 horses in the national park in NSW last spring, down from about 19,000 in 2019.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said 14,000 was “still too many” horses, arguing for a further reduction in the population through continued passive trapping and re-homing.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Survey commissioned the survey to uncover changes in the horse population after the state’s devastating bushfires of 2019-2020.
As well as the fires, the government is attributing the fall in numbers to drought and the movement of horses in and out of the park.
The 2019 survey looked at the entire NSW and Victorian Alps region, while the 2020 survey looked only at Kosciuszko National Park.
Mr Kean said there would always be wild horses in the national park but it was necessary to manage horse numbers responsibly to protect the environment.
“I remain 100 per cent committed to managing the very sensitive areas of the iconic Kosciuszko National Park on the basis of the best available science,” Mr Kean said in a statement.
“We can now be confident that we have the most up-to-date data as we get the balance right, protecting the Snowies and retaining the heritage value of these wild horses.”
More than 340 horses were removed from the park in 2020 by passive trapping and re-homing.
Of the 193 horses removed from the park between July 23 and October 1 last year, 178 were re-homed and 14 were killed. One died in the trap yards.
Wild horses pose a threat to the natural environment in the Snowy Mountains as they trample alpine ecosystems, erode waterways and destroy habitats for threatened species.
The government is working on a wild horse heritage management plan, with a draft to be released in the first quarter of the year.