WILD dogs are on the move and threatening fringe metropolitan communities, not just farming regions, according to Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Joyce said he believes the Australian people are now “on the same page” and understand why government is spending funds to help eradicate and control wild dogs, which is a “noble cause”.
He said that cause aims to improve animal husbandry and reinvest in and revitalise economies of the western districts.
But he said the control program also assists people in the peri-urban areas and semi-urban areas “who are also saying loud and clear to us, don’t just talk about the western districts when you talk about the wild dog problems; talk about the Blue Mountains, talk about the Gold Coast and Brisbane and anywhere near a national park”.
“This government has really grasped the mettle and said if there’s one issue that we can be marked on, with so many others, is our attention to trying to deal with the wild dog issue.”
Mr Joyce said - as an estimate of how far wild dogs can travel - one was collared near Charleville, Queensland, and actually shot near Moree, NSW, about 630 kilometres away by road.
“This is something that if you just think the problem will stay somewhere else, well it’s on the move and moving towards you,” he said.
New online tool
Mr Joyce today launched a new online tool for managing wild dogs on the PestSmart Connect website, as part of the National Wild Dog Action Plan.
He was joined by representatives from the National Wild Dog Action Plan implementation steering committee, Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre (IACRC) and WoolProducers Australia.
Mr Joyce said the enhanced website would provide better information to help people deal with wild dog problems; not just in farming districts.
He spoke of his personal experience with the killing capacity of wild dogs, after travelling past a mob of sheep in the morning and returning later in the day to see carcases.
Mr Joyce said wild dogs enjoyed killing and were capable of leaving sheep to struggle and die, after removing their kidneys.
He said controlling and eradicating wild dogs was important to returning the wool industry to certain areas of the nation, especially given record high prices.
“With wild dogs you can basically forget about having a lamb,” he said.
“The wild dogs will just eradicate any ewe that’s trying to lamb and whilst she’s incapacitated, and the lamb’s young, they’ll just clean the lamb and the sheep up.”
Mr Joyce said wild dogs also impacted cattle populations and can take weaning rates below 40 per cent.
He said the government had recently allocated $25 million for pest control in the western districts and $35m to assist regional communities with controlling wild dogs by constructing fences and via baiting programs and other measures.
IACRC national wild dog facilitator Greg Mifsud said the new website would assist landholders who need succinct and easy to access information on current best practice control techniques, to assist their decision making on wild dog control programs.
Mr Mifsud said a big part of implementing effective controls was having a range of landholders working collectively.
He said wild dogs - like feral pigs and foxes - are a highly mobile species.
“They move across boundaries, they move across property boundaries; they move across State borders; and they move across private/public land boundaries,” he said.
“Wild dogs and small stock simply don’t mix.
“Wild dogs are one of the only pest animals in Australia that will actually force someone out of their chosen industry.
“We’ve seen the sheep numbers in Queensland declined significantly over the last 10 to 15 years as a consequence of wild dogs.
“We’ve also seen a lot of the major areas and traditional wool growing areas also suffering impacts and those dogs are also moving and encroaching into peri-urban environments.”
Cost of wild dog attacks
Mr Joyce said wild dog attacks cost Australia’s agricultural sector an estimated $66m each year through livestock losses, disease transmission and control costs.
But he said that also had an emotional impact on the farmers who put their blood, sweat and tears into raising and protecting their livestock.
The Australian Government provided a $280,000 start-up investment to support the initial phase of implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan, he said.
“The action plan identified that landholders wanted better access to up-to-date information on effective wild dog management.
“The new portal delivers this, supporting farmers and the community to make well-informed decisions about effective wild dog controls on their own properties or as part of a group.
“In addition to supporting the implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan, the new-look PestSmart Connect website will also provide practical resources to complement other important work by the Invasive Animals CRC.
“PestSmart Connect serves as a one-stop-shop for farmers and the community to easily access all the information they need on best practice management of wild dogs and other pest animals, including a wild dog management glovebox guide, and videos,” he said.
“Farmers can also connect with each other and find assistance in their region to help them tackle wild dogs and other pest animal problems.
“The Australian Government will continue working with State and territory governments, industry groups and research organisations to help farmers combat pest animals.”
More information is available online.