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Sheep still dogged by ferals

14 Mar, 2012 03:00 AM

WYANDRA grazier Peter Lucas is passionate about keeping wild dogs under control. He has seen the destruction dogs have wreaked on the sheep numbers of Western Queensland.

"Getting high participation rates is the key to getting control of dogs. Unless you get landholders involved, you are wasting your time," he said.

The economic impact of wild dogs on the livestock industry in Queensland includes losses to cattle producers of $67 million - more reason to fight hard to keep dog numbers under control.

New scientific strategies have been directed at the issue in recent years.

Researchers have targeted the movement and behaviour of dogs, where they breed, where they move, and why some dogs move away from a pack structure.

"We've had massive reductions in our dog numbers," Mr Lucas said. "And that can actually work against getting someone to eradicate the last few dogs.

"Why would a trapper come to our shire to trap a couple of dogs when they could go to Murweh and trap 500?"

Landholders across the Paroo and surrounding council areas are involved in a ongoing battle against wild dogs, which stepped up with the first fully funded campaign in 2004. Today the Paroo model extends to the Murweh, Bulloo and Quilpie council areas.

"Our model of wild dog control is really one of the few successful models in Australia," he said.

"If we did not start this model of wild dog control, there would not be a sheep left in the Paroo Shire. This program has meant that producers have stayed in sheep and a couple have come back to sheep."

In the past, when dog numbers were getting up to levels that were a concern, landholders started their own baiting campaigns, but it was co-ordination that was required.

National Wild Dog co-ordinator Greg Mifsud has been working in wild dog control for the past four years.

"Many producers have entered the industry and are not familiar with rougher country, or don't realise that wild dogs are active on their properties and their neighbours' properties," he said.

"Building capacity for landholders to control wild dogs is really important. It is an issue about them having the capacity to help themselves.

"You have new people moving into country that they are not familiar with. They sometimes don't even realise that there is a dog problem present.

"The satellite radio tracking of wild dogs conducted by Biosecurity Queensland has shown people they need to be part of community and local government control programs, because the activity clearly showed them that dogs do reside and travel on their properties.

"From where we started, the national program has progressed.

"Building capacity through information and field days means people can do more to help themselves.

"People are far more involved in the decision making and are now actively applying control when losing stock, instead of feeling helpless and wondering where to turn to for help.

"It is still bloody frustrating for them when attacks are occurring, but we are now seeing people getting on the front foot and working with their neighbours to control dogs.

"I think producers in general are far more positive that control is progressing and we are moving in the right direction with our control programs than we were four years ago.

Mr Lucas agrees. "There is a cost associated with trapping," he said.

"Some landholders cannot afford to employ trappers. It can cost a shire a hell of a lot of money, even where it has funded 75 per cent of the cost.

"Some landholders were getting bills of $6000 to 7000."

Elders wool manager, NSW and Queensland, Bruce McLeish, says wild dogs have had a catastrophic effect on the sheep and wool industry.

"The number one concern and limiting factor for sheep producers - wool or meat - is not season, price, or genetics," he said.

"The number one issue is control of wild dogs.

"The impact that wild dogs have had on the sheep and wool industry in Queensland is unbelievable.

"You can see their effect from Warwick to as far west as you want to go right through to Mitchell, Augathella and Blackall. Wild dogs have decimated the industry. From 14 million sheep in Queensland we would now be lucky to have 4 million."

Southern Downs wild dog committee chairman Ben Cory said while his committee is quite new, it will be important to co-ordinate the control of wild dogs.

"We have more people involved in baiting, and are working towards meat supply," Mr Cory said.

"National Parks are involved as well. Baiting will concentrate on the range country so you are not throwing baits all over the place. We'll be focusing on corridors where dogs are known to be."

It all takes money to track and work out where the dogs are coming from and where they are pushing out from.

Mr Cory said a lot of dog scalps were coming in from Killarney, Yangan, and Mary Vale.

"There is also a trapper that has been picking up a lot of dogs around here, Allora, Freestone and the eastern side of the range," he said.

"Getting landholders and National Parks working together is an aim of the committee.

"We will be holding pest animal control workshops for landholders in March, and a strategic planning workshop."

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) has agreed to fund a full-time wild dog co-ordinator in Queensland to work with producers in the major wool and sheep growing areas of Queensland to extend the efforts of existing wild dog committees, and to help new committees form.

The AWI contribution is welcomed by graziers like Peter Lucas.

"We really need to manage control programs across the state and this position will make a big difference," Mr Lucas said.

"It's good to see the industry putting something into managing wild dogs as it has had a massive impact on sheep numbers."

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Ian Mott
14/03/2012 11:24:17 AM, on Queensland Country Life

What sort of dog control could we get for the $5.25 an hour the Israelis pay their Thai guest workers? How many Timorese would line up to be trained by our few remaining trappers? At $100 a scalp they would only need to get two a week (or save 2 sheep) to make wages. And that fundamentally alters the economics of hunting down that last breeding bitch in the district. The critical part of the job is no longer viable at Australian wage rates so we need to bring in the people who can make it viable. Convert that old water tank for smoking feral porkers and everyone wins.
18/03/2012 12:35:02 AM, on Queensland Country Life

Overseas worker to trap wild dogs? Trapping dogs is an artform its not easy. I have been trapping wild dogs for around the last 5 years and doing it as a pro for the last 18 months and I charge a call out fee from Townsville $0.50 a Klm then $100 a day plus $100 a dog (plus whatever the local shire or wool board ect is paying). Beleive me if you have a dog problem my services are very cheap when you look at the stock you are losing. When you look at what I have a vehicle plus 100 or more traps (cost $100 each) plus 12 remote game cameras ($500 each) plus my fuel/food ect I'm very cheap.
Ian Mott
19/03/2012 10:22:24 AM, on Queensland Country Life

FClass, I think you are seriously under paid and seriously under-utilised. The best use of your expertise is as a trainer and field supervisor of a whole team of guest workers. At the moment there is nowhere near enough people with your skills to get on top of the problem. And that means the dog population is being managed in a way that maintains a continuously renewable supply. That is good for the small number of trappers because it ensures there will always be a good income from every place you go to but no farmer has ever agreed to a "sustainable" dog harvest policy.
20/03/2012 1:22:28 PM, on Queensland Country Life

When will these farmers wake up and stop poisoning our country. 1080 has been used since 1963- and we can see the result- farmers excess dogs going wild and breeding with the few dingoes left, mass deaths of ALL native animals in baited areas, and still stock losses. LAZY farmers use LAZY methods. Progressive farmers have been using Guardian animals for stock protection for many years, and the results have been amazing. But it does mean that farmers have to become responsible for our environment, instead of maintaining the outdated poison-shoot policy.
20/03/2012 3:02:35 PM, on Queensland Country Life

Why would anyone exterminate a species that has lived there for 18,000 years? Poisoning the other wildlife in the process and with little return. Makes no sense.
23/08/2012 11:21:57 AM, on Queensland Country Life

There are plenty of responsible hunters keen to assist landowners with feral animals. The problem is how to link hunters with the landowners.


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Emily, have U seen what is happening to Chinas peasant farmers in their country? Cleared out and
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Hey it is pretty dumb all unifying together to make good progress if you are headed in the wrong
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jillaroo, how right you are. In fact Australian farmers still supply the lowest priced food