AS part of the FarmOnline Wild Dog project, which aims to share information, educate landholders and promote co-ordination of management programs, Queensland Country Life commissioned a series of opinion pieces on the topic "how I would manage wild dogs". This fifth article in the series is from Queensland Regional NRM Groups Collective CEO ANDREW DRYSDALE.
THERE are very few things that occur in our Australian landscapes that happen in isolation, which means that our farmers, graziers and other land managers operate in a very complex and challenging environment.
Wild dog control is no exception. I still struggle to understand the reasons behind dog populations exploding to the level they are at now.
When I’ve asked people for their opinion, I’m provided with many and varied answers from things such as favourable seasons that have resulted in increased roo numbers and thus food source for dogs, the reduction in property workforces resulting in less people to control dogs and maintain dog proof fences, and the infusion of domestic dogs with dingoes resulting in more and larger litter sizes.
“Ideally there should be wide acceptance of these causes”
No doubt all or most of the reasons provided to me are contributing factors. (I struggle to go with the reason that they have been “boated” over from Fraser Island!)
But do we know how much? I suggest not.
Before wild dogs can be effectively and economically controlled for the long term I believe we need to get a better understanding of the causes behind the population explosions.
Ideally there should be wide acceptance of these causes. Without this we may continue to apply a disproportional amount of effort and resources to only solving a small part of the problem.
With a better understanding of the causes of population explosions we also need to be able to accurately place a cost on the effect of wild dog attacks.
I’m aware that work has been done on quantifying the costs associated with wild dog attacks but I’m also aware that there is a lack of acceptance or awareness of these costs.
There needs to be a compelling case developed as to why wild dogs need to be controlled, resulting in buy-in by all land managers and the wider community.
These costs need to be expressed in financial, emotional and environmental contexts.
Armed with agreed cause and effect, we will be in a better position to continue to develop effective control mechanisms.
“This approach should be the foundation that long-term wild dog control is built on”
These will vary according to factors such as demographics, being in or out of the wild dog fence, land type and enterprise type.
I’m not suggesting that establishing the cause, effect and solution should happen sequentially as time is simply not on the side of many landholders, who have an immediate problem.
However, I do advocate that this approach should be the foundation that long-term wild dog control is built on.
What I have described above is merely stating the “blinding obvious” to many - yet the subtle thread I’ve tried to weave in is that effective wild dog control is about getting people to acknowledge and own the problem and associated solutions.
There needs to be an integrated approach to all aspects of the issue.
Again, this is stating the blinding obvious, but my observations of the last four months tell me we still have anything but an integrated approach to the wild dog problem.
The drought funding, which was made available for control of dogs, pigs and rabbits, exposed just how disjointed we are in our approach to animal pest control in many areas.
The immediate reaction to the funding being announced was one of “how can I get my hands on a bit of this money?” rather than “here is an opportunity for us to reduce the collective impact of dogs, pigs and rabbits when they are at their most vulnerable”.
Fortunately Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh and his biosecurity staff held their line, insisting that there be an integrated approach across landholders, local governments, natural resource management groups, dog syndicates and industry bodies.
After a bit of pushing and shoving this has been achieved.
Whilst we are still to see how effective this integration has been in achieving dog control, I’m confident it will be more likely than what would have been achieved without an integrated approach.
In summary, for effective and cost efficient wild dog control we need to gain agreement on why we have so many, what is the true cost and what are the best control mechanisms.
We need to do this collaboratively but quickly, as the impact is crippling enterprises and communities.
We need to draw on the desire of landholders to control dogs, the expertise that resides in natural resource management (NRM) groups, industry, local governments and agencies and the commitment of governments to urgently address the problem.