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 second article in the series is from Mayor of Quilpie Shire Council, STUART MACKENZIE.
THERE have been hundreds of articles written about wild dogs in recent times and the problem and the solution are both hidden amongst all that literature.
The trouble is, the simple facts get lost in the politics, the blame shifting, the quest for the cheap, easy option, or the general over-complication of the subject.
I have a lifetime’s experience in wild dogs and, through my father, over 70 years of first-hand knowledge of their control.
My property in Queensland has been in the family since 1937 and is situated just inside the westernmost point of the Wild Dog Barrier Fence (WDBF).
The dogs outside the fence, in the Cooper Creek country, are rife and always have been. People often ask me: “How are the dogs out your way?”. I always answer: “The same as they have always been.”
In 2005 I also represented the 14 south west Queensland shires (pre-amalgamation) in a high-level committee that formulated a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the State government and all its relevant departments, Agforce and local government.
That committee was well aware of the impending wild dog 'tsunami' we were facing.
It was out of that process that Shire Wild Dog Advisory Committees (WDAC) were first set up and the Quilpie Shire WDAC was one of the first across the State.
Sadly, not much else was achieved from the recommendations of that committee.
If you have wild dogs on your property and you consider them a problem then it is your problem - not the council’s, not the government’s - yours.
If you have wild dogs and don’t control them, even if you don’t think it is a problem, then that becomes your neighbour’s problem.
If a number of properties don’t control their dogs so that it affects a whole shire then it is the council’s problem.
If enough shires don’t control their dogs then it becomes the State government’s problem. That is where we are at in 2014.
The first step in controlling dogs on your property is making the decision to do it! You then use all the tools available to you.
If you have or are building a dog-proof fence, maintain it religiously.
For many years the government didn’t maintain the WDBF on our property so we did it ourselves.
That meant patrolling and dog-proofing the fence at least once a month and after every significant rainfall.
Any dogs that got through the fence or came from the east were trapped.
The development of 1080 was a huge step forward and since its introduction the property, including outside the WDBF, has been baited at least three times a year and sometimes as many as five.
If dogs don’t take the baits you trap.
Similarly, if the problem becomes a shire one the council has to make the decision to control it or not.
When the new Quilpie Shire Council was elected in 2012 we made the decision to control the wild dogs in our shire.
We still had a viable sheep industry and it was absolutely critical that we maintained that.
Like all shires inside the WDBF we paid the precept to maintain it, but we also heavily subsidised baiting programs and employed a full-time trapper.
With the help of recent federal government funding we are now employing a second full-time trapper.
The strategy costs in excess of $500,000 per annum and we are controlling our dogs, but only just.
If we relaxed the program at all I feel we would quickly be overrun.
Whether you are a property owner, a council or a state government, you have to commit to doing the job.
Imagine building a levee bank to stop your town flooding but only building half of it because that is all you can afford. You can’t 'half' control dogs either.
Is fencing the easy answer?
We need to be very mindful about why fencing works.
The original WDBF was built to separate the sheep country (practicing dog control) from the cattle country (not practicing dog control).
It worked well until the properties inside stopped practicing dog control.
Spending money on fencing without also factoring in the cost of removing the dogs in the fenced-off area would be a total waste of money.
The South West Natural Resource Management (SWNRM) 'cluster' fencing strategy will potentially be successful because every property inside the cluster has to commit to practicing dog control.
Fencing off areas without this guarantee is doomed to failure.
Commitment to control
In closing I can only state the obvious: we have a wild dog problem because properties, including national parks, stopped controlling them.
The solution is to commit, at all levels, to doing whatever has to be done to control them.
It will take time and cost a lot of money. The source of that money will be at the discretion of the individual properties, councils or governments and could come from general revenue, levies or grants.
The funds should be targeted at baiting, trapping and some strategic fencing until we have the wild dog numbers back under control. There are no shortcuts.
Stuart Mackenzie is Mayor of Quilpie Shire Council and a grazier at Plevna Downs, Eromanga.