Brumbies (wild horses) cause a huge amount of damage in the Australian high country. While it is usually the herds in Kosciusko National Park that feature in the news stories and public debates, this recent piece by Nicola Bell from The Weekly Times highlights the problems in Victoria.

WILD horses in alpine regions cause significant damage to wildlife and the environment, according to Parks Victoria chief conservation scientist Mark Norman.

Dr Norman told The Weekly Times the alpine regions were not adapted to hard-hoofed animals — both horses and deer — and as such they were causing destruction of waterways and loss of habitat.

His comments follow protests in NSW earlier this year about the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Management Plan.

Victoria is also working on its own wild horse and deer management plan, with a draft to be released for public comment in the next few months as part of the Greater Alpine National Parks Management Plan.

Dr Norman said he understood the cultural significance of the brumby, but the Government was obliged to protect “what has evolved in the alps over millions of years”.

“Brumbies in the high country and in alpine areas are not a natural part of that landscape,” he said. “It is not something we can afford to do nothing about.”

While many brumby supporters argue damage cannot be proven, Dr Norman and his team have conducted many surveys and experiments assessing the damage, with extensive photographic evidence.

These have revealed damage from hooves, destroyed vegetation and muddied water, destruction of riverbanks, contamination of water by disturbance and defecation, and damage to alpine shrubs, grasses, mosses and wildflowers, including by consumption.

With an estimated 2300 wild horses in 700,000ha of Victoria’s eastern alps, Dr Norman said the damage was obvious and demanded action.

Parks Victoria is already trapping and rehoming brumbies, but all options will be considered under the plan, with culling a possibility.