Owners warned after feral animals caught trashing Aussie national parks

The message couldn't be clearer, owners have been told to get their animals out or they'll be seized.

Cattle tracks through a Cape York national park.
Rangers accumulated images of cattle destruction in 2022 and 2023 across four Cape York national parks. Source: DESI

Herds of marauding unbranded cattle will be seized by authorities after evidence was amassed showing they are trashing four national parks around Cape York Peninsula. Data collected by helicopters and satellites between 2022 and 2023 has helped Queensland rangers pinpoint their movement patterns across the wilderness areas.

The damage their cloven hooves inflict upon fragile creek beds and landscapes that are refuges for endangered plants make them easily tracked. Rangers believe there are thousands of the feral animals, and landholders have been ordered to acquire stock mustering permits and remove them by September.

After this date, remaining animals will be seized and removed from the park by authorities.

Destroyed creek beds in a Cape York national park, likely from cattle.
Australia's natural environment is easily ruined by hoofed species like cattle, pigs and horses. Source: DESI

The impact of the cattle is widespread, with Indigenous cultural sites and endangered wildlife habitat both being destroyed. Since European settlement, the parks have been infested by feral species including pigs, horses, cats, and cattle.

Cattle next to a shelter with a seat in it in a national park in Cape York.
Cattle owners have until September to remove their animals. Source: DESI

The national parks being targeted include:

  • Cape Melville National Park

  • Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park

  • Olkola National Park

  • Oyala Thumotang National Park

Ranger Steve Coulson explained how serious the cattle problem is, noting herds can balloon by 40 per cent a year when left unchecked. Because they can carry disease, they also pose a potential significant biosecurity risk. Graziers have long feared Cape York could serve as any entry point for foot and mouth disease, and that would be devastating for Australia's beef industry.

“Given the damage feral cattle can cause to the natural environment and culturally significant places, our primary objective is to significantly reduce the numbers of cattle on protected area estate – and to prevent re-population from occurring,” he said on Monday.

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