Beware the wild goats terrorising a Welsh village

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The Independent Online

As examples of yobbish behaviour go, few demand a more urgent Asbo or dispersal order than that currently facing a troublesome group in Nantgwynant, in the Snowdonia National Park.

The groups wreaking havoc in the North Wales village are damaging property, vandalising gardens and, according to some passing motorists, playing "chicken" with passing cars before running off. Much to the chagrin of the local constabulary, however, the local magistrates' court is powerless to act.

The marauders at Nantgwynant, a campers' paradise near Beddgelert, are wild goats whose numbers (300, judging from a recent National Trust head-count on the local slopes) give the village the dubious distinction of possessing the densest wild goat population per hectare in the UK. Up to three generations of the animals surround the village and it is thought the mild winters have allowed the herd to increase in numbers.

Such is the extent of the damage they have caused - manicured lawns have been destroyed and valuable shrubs violated - that the National Trust now concedes it is considering using marksmen to reduce numbers. "With the warm weather, the goats have returned to the slopes to graze on heather and grass," a spokeswoman said. "A group of bodies [is] discussing the problem at the moment and no final decision has been reached. There are a number of options."

Shooting the goats would be an acceptable option for Anne Evans, 83, who has lived in the area for seven decades. "Last summer, they didn't go back to the slopes because there is more food down here now the authorities have got rid of all the sheep," she said.

"They come down with their mothers when they are young and from then on they know where to go. There used to be a group of about 20 that would hang around the road, which is very dangerous because there are quite a few motorbike riders who come here every weekend.

"They cross the road, going in front of cars like they just don't care. They eat everything, like shrubs and flowers, and come early in the morning. You can try to shoo them away and some will go, but others will just ignore you because they have got used to people."

Wild goats have roamed the mountains of Snowdonia for hundreds of years - and, in the case of some breeds, several thousand years. But a notable - and fearsome - feature of those currently causing problems is their three-foot horns.

"A lot of work has been going on to research the goat population," the National Trust spokeswoman added. "We're expecting a report and it is likely some culling will take place."

The National Trust concedes that this is "a very controversial subject". It is currently consulting with the British Feral Goat Society, which is said to be supportive, and other groups. The Snowdonia National Park ecologist Rod Gritten said: "We are under a lot of pressure from locals to try to do something. We have a constant stream of petitions and letters complaining about the destruction."

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