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Integration key to wild dog control

24 Sep, 2014 02:00 AM
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9
 
Effective wild dog control is about getting people to acknowledge and own the problem and solutions

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.

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READER COMMENTS

jen from the bush
24/09/2014 5:43:46 AM

If it helps, we found the 1080 did not work several years in our first baiting in the year allowing the breeding up of these animals. We came to the conclusion that the 1080 was either out of date (if that is possible) or had been interfered with so it would not work. Given that we have been using 1080 ever since it was available and are very exact on how and where we bait and have always taken note of the outcome of baiting, we could not believe that dogs suddenly became more smart.
Qlander
24/09/2014 8:45:14 AM

Really! Dogs are smart enough to learn to, round up stock, lead the blind, sniff out drugs and explosives, ect. But they couldn't possibly be smart enough to learn not to touch a bait, after they've seen their siblings die from them. Wishful thinking jen, the ONLY adult dogs alive, are alive because they HAVEN'T eaten a bait. The only really effective way left to bring dogs under control, is to break the country into cells, and hunt them down one at a time. The size of the cells will vary depending on the country -100,000ha on the Downs smaller in the rough country.
MindiKua
24/09/2014 11:30:51 AM

An even better way of managing wild dogs/dingoes is to note the current scientific research that shows that lethal control only makes the problem worse. I am sure you have heard the ' old timers' say that the wild dog problem has never been so bad. There is excellent scientific evidence that shows the use of livestock guardian animals and the cessation of lethal control; improves lambing rates by up to 70%, improves stock health and production, improves farmers mental health as they are not lying awake at night listening for howls, costs less and is less costly in terms of farmer time.
john from tamworth
24/09/2014 12:01:10 PM

I agree Qlander and I have noted the same behaviour with foxes.Some of these old boys just won't go near a bait and shooting is the only way to get them.It would be helpful to have automatic rifles back.
Makka
24/09/2014 3:52:08 PM

Mindikua, with your quoting of all the scientific research etc, I am assuming you are not actually involved in dog control. I can assure you that guardian animals are not a silver bullet on their own. They are handy in some circumstances, but 'on the menu', in others. Dog numbers have never been worse. There are many instances of people not having dogs in living memory, but in the last 5 years they are regularly seeing packs of 10+.
fridgimus
25/09/2014 11:10:07 AM

Baits being left out and going sub lethal is a massive problem IMO. Once a dog gets crook from a sub lethal 1080 bait, it will never touch one again.
Bil Natas
25/09/2014 4:19:23 PM

the wild dog problem comes about by lack of staff on station in the 60 in the springsure district we would spend a month chasing wild dog pup in the caves and get up to 75 pups a season plus what we trapped during mustering I have doubled my wages for the year with dog scalps when wages were $65 a week and scalps were $2 how many station staff trap dogs now or know how to set a trap I have a son working on a station in the Blackall district and has noit shot a dog but see 5-6 a week bil natas
hilltop
25/09/2014 6:48:55 PM

Wild dogs are a big problem in this area of NE Vic we can no longer run sheep and usually lose calves off heifers most years, there are a number of problems to solve, the crossbred dogs about today will breed twice a year as opposed to the purebred dingo only once, result twice as many pups, adult dogs are very cunning and hard to poison, baiting works best on hungry pups and young dogs, trapping is by far the best way to lower numbers, and leaving traps down and not going near them regularly results in much better catches, here in Vic the trappers are basically working with their hands tied.
Mark
3/03/2015 9:33:14 PM

In my opinion I think there should of been experienced trappers left on stations where dogs have always been. The problem was they thought the 1080. Was the answer but they always revert back to doggers as they say you only get what you created.

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