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Beyond the Bale : December 2015
36 ON FARM Since starting to work together to collectively help protect their sheep flocks from wild dog attack, producers in Victoria’s high country around Swifts Creek have managed to reduce predation. Fraser and Penny Barry run the historic ‘Bindi Station’ in the East Gippsland of Victoria, which has been in Penny’s family for more than 100 years. Their experience of the devastating effects of wild dogs is typical of many in the area. While they are now successfully controlling the problem, their situation had been grim. “The dogs have given us a bit of a caning,” Fraser says. “There was a stage when we thought we might have to get out of sheep because of the numbers that we were losing. It just kept on getting worse and after the 2003 fires it just escalated to a degree where we were losing probably 1,500 sheep a year.” But it wasn’t just the livestock and financial losses that were a burden; having to always focus on repelling wild dog attacks was having an emotional impact. “We didn’t sleep because it was a constant program of trying to find where the dogs were coming in, or attempting to shoot a dog in the morning and at night. All I ever did was think about dogs and so the problem was that we didn’t look at any other facet of our business. “You feel so helpless because you can’t do anything about it, and you just think ‘I’m doing as much as I can, how am I physically going to do any more?’ and then all of a sudden you just feel ‘I can’t cope’.” And the effect was not just felt by the producers working the land. “The wives are picking all this up, the children feed on it, so the whole problem is a community problem,” Penny said. “We knew we had to change or we were going out the back door fast.” CHANGE FOR THE BETTER Fraser says the change for the better began when the local community began to take a collective approach to wild dog control. Rather than each producer trying individually to tackle the issue, a ‘nil-tenure landscape level’ approach with the local community was adopted – this highlights the benefit of focusing on the ‘common problem’ rather than attributing ownership of the dogs to individual land managers. “Once we started to take ownership of the problem, we could then actually start to find ways to handle it. We only had to take the first step and acknowledge there are other communities that are having success, which means we must be able to have success if we look and see what they are doing and take from them what will adapt to our place. “There’s been a big change in the process of combatting wild dogs in the past few years and I think people are really learning that together we can all achieve more. We’ve previously been isolated and had traditional views of how to handle it, but through the community engagement process we actually are learning strategies that have worked elsewhere. “Last year we lost no sheep to dogs and this year we have had only one dog inside our electric fence, so we actually sleep at night now.” “On Bindi, our predation problem has really fallen away to nearly zero." As can be seen at Swifts Creek, a collective approach to controlling wild dogs can be beneficial, but it can take time and on-going vigilance and measures are needed to keep wild dog numbers under control. Through a truly consultative process local farmers can not only share in the ‘ownership’ of the decision-making but can identify and pursue the resources (baits, trap kits, contractors, fencing etc) required to successfully implement a local and regional solution. AWI FUNDING AVAILABLE Funding is available under AWI’s 'Community Wild Dog Control Initiative' to individual groups to undertake wild dog control activities. Funding can be directed by groups to fill gaps they have identified in their control plans. To apply, groups should download and complete the application form at www.wool. com/wilddogs and submit it along with a plan, a map and a project budget to wilddogs@wool. com. Applications are open to new groups as well as those groups that have previously received funding from AWI. If you need clarification or assistance please contact Ian Evans at AWI on 0427 773 005 or firstname.lastname@example.org Participation in a community wild dog control group has helped Penny and Fraser Barry reduce predation on the historic 4,000 hectare Bindi Station in East Gippsland. WILD DOG CONTROL COORDINATION VITAL FOR
In the Shops - March 2016