Feral horses are a serious pest. They inhabit some very delicate
ecosystems and have a substantial effect on them. Horses are a
major problem in these areas. They cause Soil Erosion and Land Degradation
Horse hooves are hard and when they impact the ground, they
crush vital plants and compact it so if the area gets rain, the
water isn’t absorbed into the ground and just runs-off. As
Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth with very
limited rainfall, this is a very serious problem especially in
areas where feral horses are found.
They occupy valuable farming land and when that land is being
used, they go in and eat the crops and plantations, and if there
are cattle, they graze in the paddock that has been set aside
for cattle grazing, so there is nothing left for the cattle when
they are moved into that grazing paddock.
If fences are put up around paddocks the horses break them down,
being the strong animals they are. This is a very serious
problem, for if a feral horse broke down a cat-proof,
rabbit-proof or fox-proof fence, it could mean absolute disaster
for that once protected environment.
They compete with native wildlife for food and habitat. With
their weight they can cave in burrows of native marsupials,
rodents and lizards. They compact the ground, see Soil Erosion and Land Degradation
, and prevent re-habitation as the ground is
too hard. They force kangaroos and other native grazing animals
out of their habitat due to lack of food, and the feral horses’
ability to travel 50 kilometres for a source of water or their
‘home’ range for food.
The tracks and compacting made by hooves can also change the
flow of water and run-off. Water flows downward and if a track
made by a herd of feral horses creates an ‘alternate route’ for
the water, the catchment area could dry out and if that
catchment area supplies some type of agriculture, industry or
housing estates with water, then this source wouldn’t be
reliable and it would impact on the costs a lot to either remedy
the situation or by having to change water sources.
They can carry exotic diseases such as African Horse Sickness
and Equine Influenza which are harmful diseases and can effect
domestic horses and cost the industry millions of dollars.