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Beyond the Bale : September 2014
28 ON FARM Teen Ryan can’t restrain a quiet smile when people ask her what she’s doing with herself these days. She knows her answer will usually bowl them over and she knows she has some explaining ahead. It’s not just that the beautiful blonde is a mother of three and a grandmother of seven – though that’s a shock when people first meet her. It’s what she does for a living that often leaves them lost for words. Teen is one of the few women in Australia who work as a professional dogger – tracking and culling roaming wild dog populations that viciously attack sheep, cattle and native fauna in remote farm and bush land. Being a dogger is a rugged, lonely and difficult job, which Teen handles with aplomb. “Some people have a preconceived notion that a dogger’s day is spent, red-neck style, leaning out a window looking for dogs to shoot,” she says with an amused shake of her head. It’s an ‘Annie, get your gun’ image Teen is quick to dispel. “Generally, people who are not part of the industry don’t understand the shocking impact wild dogs have on our rural businesses and lifestyle,” she says. “Some believe wild dogs to be an Australian icon, similar to their much loved domestic pet that lives in the backyard. But it’s not like that at all. Once I explain the job, they do see it differently.” Teen, a former pastoralist and farmer, has about 14 years dogging experience and is currently working as a professional dogger in the Goldfields Nullarbor region. She previously worked on the south east coast at Ravensthorpe, so has experience working with farmers and pastoralists. She finds clients are often surprised and sometimes apprehensive when they meet a woman taking on the task of wild dog management. “To their credit, there has been no negativity or sexism,” Teen says. “The local pastoralists give me great support and allow me to do the job the way I need to do it. Because of past experiences, they know too well the devastating effects wild dogs can have on their livelihood.” Many of Teen Ryan’s dogging skills were honed growing up on her parents’ farm in South Australia. She learnt how to shoot, set rabbit traps and help out with the livestock. Wild dogs were something she’d never heard of until she and husband, Paul, together with her family, purchased Fraser Range station – a 176,848 hectare property on the Nullarbor in 2001. Teen recalls her first encounter with wild dogs as a shocking awakening. “We introduced our sheep onto the property, pushing them straight from the truck to water,” she says. “Checking them the next day, I noticed several standing off on their own. From a distance it was clear to see their necks were grossly swollen and I found they were whistling through their throats and frothing at the mouth. “The sheep had come from coastal country, so we thought they had either eaten something poisonous or we were dealing with Barbers Pole worm. The following day, there were even more with the same symptoms.” Perplexed, Teen turned to another Mum she’d met through the Kalgoorlie School of the Air for more information. “Bloody hell mate, you’ve got wild dogs,” Teen says her friend replied, without hesitation. “I had no idea what she meant. I’d never heard of wild dogs among stock and listened in horror as she told me about wild dogs and the damage they inflict. “I immediately thought my husband would deal with it. But Paul was so tied up with all the other pressures of getting the station functional again, he hand-balled the problem to me and that was the beginning of what has become a huge part of my life.” Teen says she luckily found a great teacher in Danny Graham, a dogger who worked for the Nullarbor Declared Animals Group (DAG) and still operates in the Kalgoorlie region. “Danny has skills unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met,” she says. “He took me around our property to show me how to look for dog signs, how to set dog traps and how to lay baits. “Danny grew up on Fraser Range, so he knew the station like the back of his hand. His patience and sound knowledge of the industry gave me the confidence to have a go.” Teen soon found the family property was riddled with wild dogs, with sheep being attacked every night. “Bacteria from the dogs’ teeth would result in septicemia developing in sheep and they would die. The dogs would also chase the sheep, causing them to scatter. This played havoc on lambing, as stressed animals often aborted,” she says. By the time the family sold Fraser Range Station, six years ago, there was only one dog left. Teen, by then, was not only a pastoralist but had become a very successful dogger. The family moved to Scaddan, close to Esperance on the south east coast of Western Australia, where Paul found DOGGED LIFE SUITS GLAMOROUS GRANDMOTHER Teen Ryan – a mother of three and a grandmother of seven – is one of the few women in Australia who work as a professional dogger. • A former pastoralist and farmer, Teen has about 14 years dogging experience and is currently working as a professional dogger in the Goldfields Nullarbor region of Western Australia. • Teen wants to see links between farmers and pastoralists, doggers and government continue to strengthen in the fight against wild dogs. "We can all learn from each other in this battle against wild dogs. A lot can be gained by listening to and working with doggers and farmers on the ground." Teen Ryan