thumbnail The scientists who stare at goats

Satellite technology is being used to track a herd of wild goats in an effort to understand where they roam and help protect our farmland and conservation areas.

Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) loggers, experts from Newcastle University are hoping to map the movement of England’s most northerly population of wild goats.

Roaming the wilds of the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland, the goats are known to congregate around Yeavering Bell – “The Hill of the Goats” and the site of an Iron Age hillfort.

The area in which the goats are found contains open moorland, woodland and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as being flanked by farmland.  As such, the area is a potential site of conflict between the goats, conservationists and farmers.

Led by Dr Richard Bevan and Dr Pete Garson from the University’s School of Biology, and supported by Northumberland National Park and local landowners and farmers, the aim is to find out more about where the goats are foraging and therefore, just how much damage the goats might be causing.

“At the moment the goats are barely tolerated” explains Dr Bevan, who is also working with zoology undergraduates Aimee Palmer and Scott Barnes who have been awarded grants from the Sir James Knott Trust to undertake the work.

“Because the goats have no protection, if landowners decide that they don't want them, then they are within their rights to remove them. This poses a real threat to this small, genetically unique population.

“The aim of this project is to understand exactly how far the goats roam and how they use the local landscape, as well as recording when, where and how long they spend eating so we can advise on any future management of the goats.”

Full details of the project may be found in the press release.


published on: 2nd November 2011