Farmer forced to improvise in dog battle

29 May, 2014 02:00 AM
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A farmer says he has been waiting for wild dogs traps he ordered from the US since September.
There is nothing more depressing than going around a paddock to bury a killed sheep
A farmer says he has been waiting for wild dogs traps he ordered from the US since September.

A PROLONGED hold-up in wild dog traps ordered from the United States has encouraged a Victorian producer to start making his own in the ongoing fight against the livestock predators.

However, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) is urging farmers to comply with trap regulations or risk hefty fines and even prison.

A sheep farmer in the State's North East contacted Stock & Land to say effective traps were not available so he was forced to start manufacturing his own.

The farmer buys traps from the US because they meet regulations and were also heavy-duty enough to prevent wild dogs breaking free, but says he is yet to receive the traps he ordered in September.

The US manufacturer did send him spare parts needed to repair worn-out and damaged traps, but not new units because of an inability to meet demand, he said.

He said wild dogs had cost him a lot of money and heartache.

"About two years ago, one dog killed dozens of sheep and about 100 lambs," he said.

"I estimate the stock losses to be equivalent to $16,500.

"I spotted the dog four times in six months, set traps every morning and eventually shot it - there is nothing more depressing than going around a paddock to bury a killed sheep in a wombat hole to find there's already one in there."

Victorian Wild Dog Advisory Committee member and National Wild Dog Advisory Group chair Michael McCormack said he had not heard of other producers making wild dog traps.

Many traps on the market effectively captured wild dogs but a farmer could make their own traps as long as they complied with regulations, Mr McCormack said.

DEPI Wild Dog Program manager Michael Bretherton agreed, saying anyone could make a trap but it needed to meet specifications to ensure it complied with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA) to minimise harm to captured animals and minimise the risk of trapping non-target animals.

The use of serrated-jaw steel traps was no longer permitted and the sale of them was illegal, he said.

Other restrictions on leg-hold traps include maximum jaw spread distance, minimum jaw off-sets and anchor chain requirements, with specifications available on the DEPI website.

The pan tension must also be adjustable so the trap could be set for target species to minimise the risk of lighter, non-target species being captured, Mr Bretherton said.

The maximum penalty for the illegal sale and use of traps is 240 penalty units (as one penalty unit equates to $122, the fine could total almost $30,000) or two years' imprisonment.

The DEPI Wild Dog Program uses only traps that are compliant with POCTA regulations.

After an evaluation conducted by the DEPI Wild Dog Program on all the traps available that complied with POCTA regulations, traps sourced from the US were found to be the preferred model for use in that program, Mr Bretherton said.

"We have had no problems getting the traps we require as long as we get our orders in early enough," he said.

Trapping makes up a major component of the DEPI program and is used in conjunction with other integrated control measures, including 1080 baiting, opportunistic shooting and good animal husbandry.

About 4000 six-milligram 1080 fresh meat baits were dropped at three sites in East Gippsland (in the Angora/Cobungra, Bindi and Wonangatta/Punchen Budwied areas) and three sites in North East Victoria (in the Burrowa, Bullhead and Wabba areas) in the past week.

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