Wandering brumbies concern

By Country News

Drivers on the roads near Barmah National Park have been warned to beware of drought-hit brumbies wandering roads in search of food.

Barmah Brumby Preservation Group president Murray Willaton said environmental flows and drought conditions throughout the forest had combined to force the feral horses out of the park and on to nearby roads, including the town of Barmah.

He said five brumbies were hit and killed by a truck six weeks ago on the Picola-Barmah Rd.

‘‘Horses are walking out wherever they can — they are a major road hazard. Someone could be seriously injured,’’ Mr Willaton said.

He said the wild horses were grazing on people’s front lawns in Barmah and a herd of about 15 brumbies was recently seen outside the Barmah Hotel.

He criticised Parks Victoria’s management of the park.

‘‘Cattle grids have been filled in, fences have been pulled down — there’s no containment at all,’’ Mr Willaton said.

Parks Victoria district manager Rachel Murphy said the organisation ‘‘does not restrict large-scale movement of either native or introduced animals in and out of national parks or reserves’’.

‘‘As with any roads through or alongside bushland and national parks, we would encourage road users to be aware of their surroundings,’’ Ms Murphy said.

She said Parks Victoria had concerns about the increasing number of feral horses in Barmah National Park and was monitoring the population ‘‘in order to inform future management strategies’’.

However, Mr Willaton said the park’s brumby population had remained stagnant for a decade.

‘‘Our group did a count a few months ago which showed 150 brumbies living on 77000 acres of park,’’ he said.

Mr Willaton said the responsibility of euthanasing or rescuing starving or injured brumbies had been left to group volunteers.

‘‘Brumbies are in poor condition. We recently rescued two foals and euthanased 14 adult horses because they were in such poor condition,’’ he said.

Ms Murphy said Parks Victoria worked with Moira Shire Council to erect signs warning drivers of the danger last weekend.