This year has had its ups and downs for Lynton's Feral Goat colony. In terms of health the general condition of the herd has been very good, and, although never far from controversy, they continue to delight and attract visitors to the valley, if the posts on the Facebook page are to be believed, from all over the world!
Prior to the April round up a number of the older billies, that had allegedly been making quite a nuisance of themselves in the surrounding villages and gardens, were culled in an area outside the valley. The council maintains that this was achieved professionally with the relevant ear tags being collected and reporting procedure adhered to. One or two of these animals had not been previously caught at round ups and so had no tags, and although it was reported that no nannies or kids were included in this event there were noticeable absences in the herd, one of the light brown twins thought to be descendants of Blossom, their mother and her new kid being among them. In an email from Mr Meakin it was suggested that there has been some poaching. For those who weren't aware, Blossom was a billy that featured as a kid in an Animal Rescue TV documentary when he was rescued by helicopter from a ledge on castle rock. He was a distinctive and popular sight in the valley until his untimely death a few years ago, victim of an incompetent marksman, unknown. His offspring can be recognised from their lighter colouring and distinctive 'eyebrow' markings.
The number of goats continues to cause concern, and the council are looking for possible rehoming opportunities. This happened a few years ago when Surrey Wildlife Trust took on a small number for land management in their reserves. News of these animals has been sparse, but the Trust reported back a year or so ago to say this had generally been a great success. If you know of any legitimate possibilities for this the council would love to hear from you. Obviously the health and wellbeing of any rehomed animals would be the first consideration, and the various legal conditions would have to be met.
This year's Lynton Goat Calendar is out and early sales are encouraging. Proceeds go to the goat welfare fund, and although this has not been universally approved of, given the council's reputation in their management of the herd, whether deserved or not, it at least means that the contribution such as it is, will be targeted towards the health and wellbeing of the animals. A full colour photo book is also in production which features the goats, but also the wider biodiversity of the valley in a strictly non-academic way!
There have been some efforts to address concerns. The contraception programme has not so far lived up to expectations, but the council continues to work with scientists on this. They have also undertaken and are in the process of moving and erecting much improved fencing which they hope will limit escapees from the valley in the winter!
There had been ideas put forward to introduce sheep and cattle into the valley to supplement the grazing stock, and indeed sheep have been introduced, although the decision was taken not to introduce cattle bearing in mind the number of walkers, and particularly dog walkers using the valley. The ponies have not returned to the valley this year to the disappointment of many of us who loved to see them.
Although asked to write this news item I am merely an observer, who loves to photograph the valley and all its wildlife, and it would be very helpful if people 'in the know' about the management of the herd and decisions concerning them would provide us with regular information through the local press. They are of course welcome to post on either the Facebook Page, which attracts many thousands of clicks, or particularly in the Group where it would be good to see more open debate and reporting. The history of animosities and unpleasantness between people of differing opinions has unfortunately been stifling to this in the past!