The feral goats of Kielderhead Moor



Herds of feral goats are present along the high ground of the Scottish Borders at the College, Hindhope, Kielderhead Moor (the study area), Bewcastle Fell and Roan Fell.

In the study area the nannies remained solitary, or in the company of their yearlings on the steep ground below the high moor throughout the winter. After the birth of their kids in March two female herds were formed each with a herd billy which came from the two male herds which were present through the winter on the high moor. The male herds left the study area in the spring and their ranges are not known. The two female herds maintained separate ranges on the high moor until the end of August when they combined into one large herd and were joined by a strange herd of billies which had not previously been seen.

After the first three or four days of its life the kid is left in a hiding place for most of the day whilst its mother ranges widely grazing with the herd. The kids join the herd when they are about six weeks old.

The Kielderhead Moor goats had a recruitment rate of 0–29/nanny/year and the females have a further expectation of life of 3–7 years. Figures for the billies are unreliable as disappearances of males from the moor are more likely to be the result of emigration than of deaths. While the herds of nannies have fairly restricted home ranges there is some evidence to suggest that many of the billies wander freely along the Borders.

In the early part of the summer the sheep and goats are eating very similar proportions of the plants present on the moor. Later on in the season there is a divergence with the sheep eating less Calluna while the goats eat less Eriophorum, but as the Trichophorum becomes available both animals include this in their diet.