A NEW invasive species action group has formed called the Northampton Biosecurity Group (NBG).
The group, which gained recognised biosecurity group (RBG) status a few weeks ago, has been 12 months in the making and covers the three shires known as the greater Geraldton and Mullewa areas, the Chapman Valley Shire and the Northampton Shire.
NBG chairman Jason Batten said establishing the group was a “relatively easy process” due to “good government and landholder support” and was really about being proactive to the risks and problems that livestock and cropping producers faced in the region.
Mr Batten said as a farmer he has had concerns about biosecurity for a while and felt it was important to be involved in order to have a say on how things were done and what the most important threats were.
The NBG’s initial focus would be on wild dog control, although there was also real concern about feral pigs, issues with kangaroos and the potential for diseases that could affect crops.
He said sightings of wild dogs had increased in the past 12 months and a dog was shot on Northampton’s outskirts.
“Wild dogs have been sighted and there have been increased attacks on farm land, it’s a real concern,” Mr Batten said.
“That’s why the group was set up.
“We knew they were coming as they were more frequently being sighted on the outskirts of the shires, so we need wild dog control taking place otherwise they will keep coming.”
Mr Batten crops wheat, barley, canola and lupins, as well as running Merinos and Dorpers on his farm north east of Yuna.
While the NBG has been recognised by the State government, the group is still establishing with no membership recorded as yet.
NBG co-ordinator Marieke Jansen said the NBG would hold its first annual general meeting in October and would be seeking to formalise its membership and group leadership then.
It was being run by an interim committee.
On August 1, the NBG held its first wild dog and feral pig management workshop which Ms Jansen said was “very well received with over 60 landholders and community members attending”.
“I think interest was high as a wild dog was found and shot last month and was most likely not alone,” she said.
“The local dogger (licenced pest management technician) has found fresh dog tracks and landholders have reported stock attacks over the past few weeks.
“Although wild dog sightings and stock attacks have been reported regularly in the Ajana area, this was only the second time that they have been reported this close to the Northampton townsite, but I think it shows that wild dogs are moving in.
“Once wild dogs establish themselves in the agricultural area they are harder to track down as you are dealing with different land tenure and ownership issues.”
The NBG encouraged landholders to have current restricted chemical permits so baits or traps could be placed when needed and to keep monitoring stock and report any suspicions of wild dog activity to their local RBG.
The NBG has budgeted more than $100,000 for the 2018/19 financial year towards wild dog management – including access to LPMTs and organising community baiting days for landholders to pick up free baits.
WA Feral Animal Management owner Andy Lockey attended the workshop to present his Matlock trap as one option to help catch and exterminate feral pigs in the Chapman Valley, which he said had the “worst problem in WA”.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of pigs in the valley,” Mr Lockey said.
He said his trap had been successfully put to use “catching more than 120 this year in the Chittering Valley alone”.
Mr Lockley said so far he had sold four traps to various groups and it was great to see “technology moving in the direction it needed to go”.
“People are starting to get switched on with technology,” he said.
“Funding is always the issue, but ultimately technology will win the day – it’s about having that ability to be in control.”
Mr Lockey’s Mortlock trap is operated by camera sensors which notify his phone when something enters the area of the trap – so he can monitor remotely on his television screen and trigger the door release when all the animals he wants are inside.
He said it worked better than the old traps because usually they were triggered by one or two animals and the rest would run away – this enables the trapper to catch them all at once.
Mr Lockey said the NBG appeared to be a “very well organised group” and it was great to see RBG’s taking off across the State to deal with wild dog and feral pig issues.