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Tahr control efforts this year focused on West Coast, hunters to play bigger role

Hunters will play a bigger role in the management of Himalayan tahr in future years, the Department of Conservation says. 

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The Department of Conservation has been killing the introduced animals from the air reducing their numbers to prevent damage to native plants. Source: 1 NEWS

Tahr are an invasive species which kills and destroys native plants in New Zealand's alpine environment.

DOC came under fire last year over its plan for controlling tahr in the Southern Alps. 

Despite changes to its control plan in September, the NZ Tahr Foundation - who sought a judicial review of DOC's programme over a lack of consultation - were still not happy. 

Today, DOC's wild animals manager James Holborow said a new plan would explore greater hunter involvement within a popular hunting area. 

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Department of Conservation backs down over tahr control plan, but hunting group still unhappy

"We have started discussions with the Tahr Plan Implementation Liaison Group (TPILG) on what hunter-led management would look like for the tahr population, within the South Rakaia/Rangitata Management Unit," he said. 

"This could involve hunters managing tahr populations as well as reporting on tahr numbers and the health of ecosystems. We’re excited to see what we can achieve by working together with the group on this opportunity."

A survey undertaken in autumn this year would provide valuable insights for the group to consider, Holborow said. 

The survey will give detailed information on tahr numbers in the South Rakaia/Rangitata and the Gammack/Two Thumb management units, including the gender balance of the local tahr population.

"We have decided not to control tahr in the South Rakaia/Rangitata management unit over the next year, while we analyse the survey data from this popular hunting spot."

DOC's new plan also outlines how it will control tahr on public conservation land in other areas of the South Island. 

Holborow said most of the control effort this year will shift to the West Coast, where high densities of tahr remain in some places.

"East of the alps, our work will focus on places which are difficult for ground hunters to access, but where there are high numbers of tahr."

Holborow said all tahr in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini national parks and outside the feral range would continue to be targeted.

However, it would not target identifiable male tahr over the remaining 425,000 hectares of public conservation land.

"We will continue to focus on targeting high tahr densities on the West Coast where hunter access is challenging, and hunters and other stakeholders have reported there are still large numbers of animals," Holborow said.

"We also plan to trial using professional ground hunters to search for and control tahr in forest areas where animals can be hard to spot from the air."

Hunters can expect to see control operations underway from early July.

DOC will publish an update on the website when work in each area is complete for the season. It aims to carry out control as quickly and effectively as practical to minimise the likelihood of affecting hunters," Holborow said.

"We want hunters to have certainty they can hunt tahr in the east from early spring, knowing DOC’s control there is complete for the year."