Doggers ready by Christmas

27 Oct, 2004 10:00 PM

AUSTRALIA'S first nationally accredited doggers will be ready for the work force by late December this year.

The dogger training course was developed by the Agriculture Protection Board (APB), the Agriculture Department and Central West College of TAFE in Geraldton to address the shortage of doggers in WA.

The pilot course started in September at Kalgoorlie and will finish in mid December with a one month probation period.

Student Mark Rhodes was attracted to the course because of a love of the bush and a desire to help farmers and pastoralists combat a worsening wild dog problem.

"When you see the actual carnage that wild dogs are capable of and the economic catastrophe they can create you realise that it is a problem that has grown out of all proportion and needs urgent attention," he said.

"I'm a jack-of-all trades, master of none, originally I was trained as an electrician, I also have a pilot's license, have worked for drilling companies and have run my own medical company in Kalgoorlie.

"Basically I decided I wanted a change and having known a dogger for years I was interested in what the work involved so I decided to enrol in the course."

Mr Rhodes said the course was excellent and one of the better courses he had attended.

"I have found the course to be really comprehensive and thorough and a particular highlight for me has been the field work that involves accompanying different doggers and learning skills related to the job," he said.

"The doggers taught us how to set traps, track dogs and look for signs and I realised as a result of our time with them how important it is to get the dog the first time.

"If you don't they become trap-shy and it is difficult to get them again.

Mr Rhodes said there was a strong emphasis on bush safety, including being prepared for emergencies, during the course.

"As a dogger we will be working independently in isolated environments and because we are dealing with firearms and poisons, occupational health and safety also has a strong focus," he said.

Mr Rhodes said providing prospective students could handle isolation, had an interest in the work and didn't mind being single then the course was a good stepping stone.

"The weather is probably the greatest challenge that I can perceive as part of the profession, particularly coming into the warmer months," he said.

"The dogs themselves don't move during the day so you have to work your day around them which will mean early starts, a spell during the middle of the day and then a start later in the day and into the night when the dogs start moving again."

The next field trip will involve aerial baiting and navigational skills in the Leonora area.

There will also be another field trip that will involve going out with three different doggers on different days so students can get a broader perspective on how each dogger carries out their work.

"The course has been really rewarding and challenging," Mr Rhodes said.

"One of the things I'd like to see is perhaps farmers or pastoralists sit in on the course to see what is involved or for students to sit in at zone control authority meetings to get a feel for what pastoralist and farmers are up against."

Students successfully completing all units of the course will receive a Certificate Two in Conservation and Land Management (Vertebrate Pest Management).



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