While studying the population of feral goats (Capra hircus L.) on the northern tip of main Auckland Island in summer 1972-73 (Rudge and Campbell, 1975) skeletons were looked for from which to estimate natural mortality. We found only two skulls, both without horns or lower jaws, and concluded that goat bodies were eaten by feral pigs. Some pig faeces were therefore collected around Port Ross, preserved in 10% formalin, and later washed apart on a I mm sieve. Identifiable items were listed as present or absent and scored by percent frequency of occurrence.
Feral goats (Capra hircus) were studied in the Mahoenui giant weta reserve, southern King Country, New Zealand, from March 1992 to February 1993. The reserve supports the main population of the undescribed Mahoenui giant weta (Deinacrida sp.). Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is the dominant woody browse plant in the reserve and provides protection, shelter and food for weta. The activities, foraging behaviour and diet of feral goats within the reserve were measured by direct observation and analysis of rumen contents.
Pronounced differences between the vegetation of four islands in a low-alpine lake compared to an adjacent mainland site are attributed to browsing by feral goats. The herbs Anisotome haastii and Ourisia macrocarpa are significantly more abundant on the islands, where they form tall herbfields. The grass Hierochloe recurvata and the shrub Gaultheria crassa were also more common on the islands, and were absent at the mainland study site.
The ability of feral goats to become pests is partly a consequence of the process of domestication. Neolithic people selected biological characteristics from wild goats, such as higher intrinsic rates of increase and increased sociability that have resulted in their domestic descendants becoming a particular nuisance when they escape to become feral. Feral goats live in about 11 % of New Zealand, mostly on land reserved for conservation of the indigenous biota. Their uncontrolled densities are usually less than 1 ha-1, but have reached 10 ha-1 in one area.
Marked sites established around Port Ross in 1973 were re-examined in 1983 to measure changes in the vegetation and assess the impact of goats and pigs. Goats had not increased in numbers, nor extended beyond their earlier range, but they were seen higher on the Hooker Hills. Pigs were scarce, but their sign was seen throughout. Photopoints and numerical methods both showed that Chionochloa antarctica tussock was eliminated or greatly reduced where goats and pigs occurred together, and where only pigs were present it was reduced slightly.
Feral goats (Capra hircus) have been hunted intensively every year since 1972 on the 2950 ha Raoul Island to protect the indigenous vegetation. Rumen samples taken from 103 goats shot in 1982-83 showed that a minimum of 48 species of vascular plants, mostly indigenous species, were eaten. Only seven foods—Metrosideros kermadecensis, Coriaria arborea var. kermadecensis, Me/icytus ramiflorus spp. ramiflorus, Rhopalostylis baueri var.
Goats were liberated on Raoul Island early in the 19th century. Attempts to eliminate the goats commenced in 1937 and have accounted for at least 15 000 animals. Since 1972, when annual hunting expeditions began, both the number of goats and the area over which they range have steadily declined and the herd is now almost extinct. Despite these changes, the mean group size of goats in 1981-83 remained the same at 3.19, 2.74 and 3.24 respectively. On average, 19% of goats escaped each encounter with the hunters.
The diet of the North Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) was studied in three central North Island habitats, Pureora, Mapara, and Rotoehu, for three years. Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) diet was less intensively studied for part of the same time in Pureora and Mapara. A literature review was made of the diet of possum, red deer (Cervus elaphus), and feral goat (Capra hircus). There is considerable overlap between the diets of kokako and the three mammalian browsers; leaves and/or fruit of some species are eaten by all four, e.g.
Ratites (ostriches Struthio camelus) and ungulates (red deer Cervus elaphus scoticus and goats Capra hircus) were presented with 14 indigenous shrubs in cafeteria-style trials. The shrubs represented the spectrum of woody plant architecture, ranging from broadleaved monopodial species through to small-leaved highly branched divaricates. Trials were stopped when almost all shoots of the plant expected to be most preferred had been consumed. There were considerable differences between the herbivores in their selection of certain plant species.