New study could lead to less friction between commercial and recreational tahr hunters

Hunters say a new study shows the potential of moving tahr to designated game estates, a move that could lead to less friction between commercial and recreational hunters.

The study was funded by the Game Animal Council, approved by the Department of Conservation and published by Lincoln University.

It monitored two captive-bred male tahr with GPS collars over a year, after they were relocated to a certified fully contained game estate.

The study showed the tahr did not exhibit any great determination to escape or signs of distress. They also quickly established a preferred territory within the 1124 hectare enclosure.

Tim Gale, general manager of Game Animal Council, says most tahr hunting - both recreational and commercial - currently takes place on public conservation land, due to the small amount of private land within the tahr range. But with a lower tahr number and the removal of bulls from national parks, he says there could be increased conflict between local recreational hunters and commercial hunters once New Zealand's borders open again and demand from overseas hunters returns.

Putting tahr in designated game estates outside their natural range for the purpose of guided commercial hunting, could be a way to alleviate this potential point of conflict, Gale said.

"Regardless of the debate over tahr control operations there has long been an issue over the recreational versus commercial demand on New Zealand's tahr resource," he said.

"Recreational hunters highly value the experience of hunting tahr in wild and remote parts of the tahr range and often spend long periods of time accessing, spotting and stalking the animals they hunt. This can at times lead to conflict with commercial guided hunters who may make greater use of helicopters and guides to position themselves in close proximity to the animals."

He said game estates could "provide a way of taking some of the pressure off the public tahr resource by catering for some of the hunting demand from overseas".

Gale said further research with a larger number of animals could also confirm the hypothesis that the natural herding behaviour of tahr will make them even less likely to escape when more tahr are present.

"The study's findings illustrate the possibility of locating male tahr on designated game estates outside their range for the purpose of guided hunting, said Gale. "This presents a chance for the creation of additional commercial tahr hunting opportunities, which will help reduce conflict with recreational tahr hunters on public conservation land and boost New Zealand's guided hunting industry post-COVID-19."