On the front line of war against wild dogs

19 Oct, 2015 06:29 AM
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Brendan Cullen stands near the skeleton of a wild dog, which had likely been killed by bait. Photo: Peter Rae
The dogs kill for sport, and that's the thing that breaks their heart
Brendan Cullen stands near the skeleton of a wild dog, which had likely been killed by bait. Photo: Peter Rae

WILD dogs are "bloody beautiful animals" but when they strike a herd of sheep it feels like a massacre, says sheep farmer Brendan Cullen, whose property sits on the NSW/South Australian dog fence.

"You might see 20 sheep pulled to bits in an isolated area. And, at times, you will see the odd sheep running around with its guts hanging on the ground, standing on its forelegs," Mr Cullen, manager of Avenel Station, 150 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, said.

"It makes you angry."

The 123,000-hectare sheep and cattle property sits on the eastern side of the dog fence in some of the driest farming country in Australia. Standing about two metres high, the 5600km-long fence was built in 1880 to protect sheep farmers in Queensland, NSW and into South Australia from rabbits and, later, wild dogs.

"Living on the NSW dog fence, we are basically on the front line," Mr Cullen said.

"We need to control any dogs that get through the fence, and are roaming on the NSW side of the border. And we need to be absolutely vigilant."

After seeing numbers of wild dogs grow to plague-like proportions on the South Australian side of the fence a few years ago, farmers began co-ordinated baiting programs. Wild dogs is the umbrella term for dingoes and hybrids of dingoes and domestic dogs.

Farmers are now seeing wildlife return as dogs and foxes dropped in number for the first time in years.

Instead of relying on shooters or trappers, the two-year-old Co-ordinated Ground and Aerial Baiting program takes a "landscape" approach.

Farmers work together instead of focusing on individual properties.

The program is funded by the federal government's pest and drought programs and supported by Western Land Services and Australian Wool Innovation.

Bruce Duncan, the wild dog co-ordinator with NSW Farmers, said by working together the farmers had dramatically increased results: "We have seen significant reductions in sightings of animals, dead stock, and increases in native species."

A few years ago, researchers at the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre warned that if left uncontrolled wild dogs could wipe out the NSW sheep industry.

The fence is patrolled, but dogs will burrow under and swim over in floods to get to food on the other side.

Greg Mifsud, the national wild dog facilitator with the Invasive Animals CRC, has seen farmers devastated emotionally as well as financially.

A report by ABARES found many farmers suffered clinical conditions, similar to post-traumatic stress, from being continually exposed to stock losses from wild dog attacks.

"The dogs kill for sport, and that's the thing that breaks their heart," Mr Mifsud said.

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READER COMMENTS

Chick Olsson
19/10/2015 1:53:52 PM

I would not call them 'beautiful'. Sly,dangerous,destructive,cruel, savage,feral, rogue, pest… not beautiful by any description
Mike Tancock
19/10/2015 2:42:27 PM

With all the hype about wild dogs, how come one can drive through NSW, SA & WA without having to open & close a gate on a so called vermin fence. Wild dogs are Olympians at crossing cattle grids
Mark
19/10/2015 3:36:47 PM

You don't need to rely on trappers and shooters you say . So baiting is ur best option time will tell u might eat them words .
Itz Me
21/10/2015 4:11:43 PM

The best front war I have seen to date is a Sako 270 wsm.

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