“NOT my problem” is a line landholders can't afford to take on wild dog predation, say the team behind the National Wild Dog Action program.
National wild dog facilitator Greg Mifsud was taken aback when producers at a recent sheep industry event told him the problem was “over the fence”.
“I was shocked at the level of complacency amongst some producers, considering we know dogs can move a considerable distance in short time – and they are moving into areas they used to be eradicated,” Mr Mifsud said.
With some southern producers reporting losses of up to 1000 sheep in the past year, the need for local groups and individual landholders to work collectively to deliver co-operative wild dog control programs has never been more urgent, he said.
“If we don’t report that there is an issue, people don’t think that there is an issue”
“Reports are coming in of dogs being shot or seen in areas where they’ve been absent for over 100 years – this is a huge concern if producers are unfamiliar with the signs of wild dog activity, or unaware of how to undertake control measures adequately.
“It’s important to be involved in the reporting of dog sightings and incidents so people can become aware and local management programs can be targeted and more effective.”
Mr Mifsud stressed the importance of reporting at local and national levels so regional authorities were made aware of specific problems and could work with the community to manage the situation.
“If we don’t report that there is an issue, people don’t think that there is an issue.”
WildDogScan and FeralScan give producers the opportunity to take control of their own management programs and data collection, Mr Mifsud said.
The Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) online initiative, which relies on grass roots information, is designed to boost the efficiency and assist with management efforts by increasing the data bank and promoting a collective, co-ordinated community approach.
“It gives producers the opportunity to react quickly to spikes in wild dog activity”
“The whole idea (behind WildDogScan) was that people could their log their own data, see what was happening locally and work with their neighbours and local authorities to make management decisions," he said.
"It gives producers the opportunity to react quickly to spikes in wild dog activity, but also undertake proactive management in areas where there is constant activity."
This approach lessens the need for the collection of information on hard copy maps, Mr Mifsud said, and the "convoluted process of recording data and getting it back to producers quickly enough" to make effective management decisions. If enough people record their information in WildDogScan then better decisions can be made based on “real time information” instead.
“If producers are recording all their information in there, they can see what happening locally and they can make a decision on what needs to happen next.
"They can have their local meeting on a Saturday, check the info for the last few months and make decisions based on that in regards to trapping and baiting."
The database can also give producers the capacity to undertake annual reviews of their management programs to see if they are achieving results and reducing stock losses.
“No one knows the landscape better than farmers”
WildDogScan project leader Peter West said getting involved is a simple process. Contributors can register, log in and drop a marker on an online map to record sightings of tracks, scat or impacts to stock or native animals. Mr West said the more information people submit - especially farmers - the more effective the site will become.
“No one knows the landscape better than farmers,” Mr West said.
“They have the best local knowledge and are in the best position to impart their wisdom to help with this very serious and growing problem.
“WildDogScan will help you work co-operatively with neighbours to design a targeted and cost effective program,” he said.
“If you are a farmer and you only have a couple of hours to do control work, you want it to be targeted. The more information that goes in, the more useful the resource will become."
Landowners also have the option to record the locations of their baiting. This information is not shared publicly, but users can opt to make it available to a selected group, such as a local wild dog management team or local landcare organisation, to help target control measures. A mobile application will also soon be available to help landholders record information in the field.
Mr West said the initiative needs to be utilised by everybody to maximise its potential.
“Wild dogs move across large landscapes and occur in all different land tenure types - it’s not just a National Parks or State Forest issue. Wild dogs don’t respect boundaries.
“We need greater recognition by landowners and a regional approach, with everybody in the community working together.”
Working with national advisory groups, community champions, scientists, landholder and industry representatives, community action groups, natural resource managers, information technology and web-design specialists, WildDogScan collates data, knowledge and expertise to enhance the aims of the national feral animal management program. FeralScan – which houses the wild dog data – is a joint initiative of the Invasive Animals CRC, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and various groups around Australia.