Biosecurity group to monitor barrier fence effectiveness

Biosecurity group to monitor barrier fence effectiveness

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"They have been the hotspots of where dogs could move through."

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THE Southern Biosecurity Group (SBG) will be undertaking a State Barrier Fence Extension monitoring program in the Ravensthorpe and Esperance areas after it was granted $77,000 in funding through the Sheep and Goat Industry Funding Scheme (SGIFS).

SBG chairwoman Karen Tuckett, Mt Madden/North Ravensthorpe, said the funds were the "largest dollar-for-dollar project" that the group had received so far and would "give us the opportunity to have scientific data we can use to manage" the river crossings and gaps in the fence.

"We are very fortunate to receive the funding," Ms Tuckett said.

"We were wondering how we were going to manage the gaps and river crossings, that's something that we have had discussions about as a group for some time.

"They have been the hotspots of where dogs could move through."

The project will see the group set up 18 remote sensor cameras, with the help of Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), on the fence line at the Oldfield River crossing at Ravensthorpe and at the Lort and Young river crossings in the Esperance shire.

The cameras will be checked manually on a regular basis and an automated process will be set up to gather the data.

"We are ready to go as soon as the camera's arrive," Ms Tuckett said.

"It will be interesting to see if there is any change in the number of animals crossing once the fence has been completed.

"The project will run until 2023.

"Hopefully we will get the outcome that we are anticipating."

Ms Tuckett and her family have been involved in the management of wild dogs in the area for 17 years after they were experiencing 20-30 sheep being attacked in a night on their farm.

"We have always had problems with wild dogs but it really got bad a number of years ago and that's when we became more proactive about it rather than reactive," Ms Tuckett said.

"With doggers doing on-ground work it has reduced the number of wild dogs in the area, but since the first eight kilometres of the Esperance Extension was completed there have not been quite as many dogs coming around into the agricultural land.

"It has taken the pressure off."

The SBG is working to keep a buffer zone of 20 kilometres from the fence to continue to alleviate the pressure wild dogs put on sheep producers.

Ms Tuckett said there were different aspects to the monitoring project - to establish a base of what kind of animals and how many were coming out of the dense bushland through the gaps in the fence, and allowing people to have a sheep enterprise in the region.

"It makes it viable for people, because some have gone out of sheep," she said.

The Tucketts made that decision years ago after the mental toll of losing so many stock to the dogs.

Ms Tucket said emus and kangaroos were also a problem on agricultural land and there had been an increase in the number of kangaroos since they were no longer being harvested for pet food.

Technical adviser to the project, DPIRD research scientist Tracey Kreplins, said the information gathered via the cameras would help assess the number of species moving along the fence and contribute to monitoring of the State Barrier Fence.

"It is important for landholders and the department to understand how gaps in the State Barrier Fence affect the movement of wild dogs into the agricultural region, which will inform control strategies for the sheep industry," Dr Kreplins said.

More than $400,000 will be invested by the SGIFS Wild Dog Eradication Program program over the next three years to help reduce the impact of wild dogs on the WA sheep industry.

This is in addition to almost $300,000 committed to projects in the previous financial year.

SGIFS Management Committee chairman and Coorow farmer Charles Wass said industry investment in projects and activities to address wild dogs was necessary.

"Wild dogs are one of the biggest threats to the Western Australian sheep and goat industry," Mr Wass said.

"We, as an industry, need to contribute alongside the significant investments being made by regional communities and the State government.

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