Letter: Where goats are a winter pest

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your charming picture of the goats on Great Ormes Head (23 December) illustrates one side of a controversy; the text hints at another. Another photograph might have shown diseased and filthy goats at the end of a hard winter, foraging in streets and gardens, and at risk of death or injury from traffic or as they jump from wall to garden wall.

When animals are artificially maintained in the absence of predators, they are liable to increase to levels which cannot be maintained, and so harm themselves and the environment. Summer visitors, who usually see them only when food is plentiful, and who have petitioned for the abandonment of a cull aimed at reducing the herd to a sustainable level, have little idea how different the situation can be in winter.

There would rightly be protests if our Orme shepherds were so foolish as to try to maintain much larger herds of sheep on the Orme grassland than it can properly support. Yet no one will take responsibility for the goats, an introduced species much diluted by domestic strains and now most remarkable for their penetrating stench.

Having interfered with Nature, it is our duty to manage wildlife, albeit with a light hand, and not to allow it to become unbalanced in distressing booms and busts. Much of the Great Orme is already a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a wild cotoneaster unique in Britain and other rare and beautiful plants as well as the notable seabird colonies.

The goat, with its ability to graze just those areas that sheep cannot reach, will help to destroy this remarkable environment.


Llandudno, Gwynedd