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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
COORDINATION: For more than a century, the area east of Armidale supported an extensive sheep and wool industry. Wild dogs were historically managed extremely effectively through a combination of aerial baiting at rates of 40 baits per km, trapping by wild dog controllers and the erection of wild dog netting fences. However during the past 15 years, wild dog impacts have increased due to range of factors. Changes in land use from sheep to cattle saw a break down in wild dog control programs and reduced maintenance of wild dog barrier fences on the edge of the public/private land interface, thus allowing wild dogs to move into areas where they were once absent. This coincided with changes in wild dog management on public estate which included a reduction in the aerial bait rate to 10 baits per km on the escarpment – a policy invoked across all public estate in NSW following concerns about impacts of aerial baiting on quoll populations. These changes put significant pressure on remaining sheep producers in the area as wild dog predation and stock attacks reached historically high levels, particularly in the Wongwibinda area. “We saw a lot more dogs,” says Wongwibinda Wild Dog Control Association Chair, James Robertson. “During the past few years I’ve lost possibly 1,500 sheep and lambs, whereas 15 years ago, we hardly ever saw a dog. “Wild dogs made sheep production almost unviable in parts of the Northern Tablelands, with even reports of losses of calves. This has enormous flow on effects to the local economies with reduced employment and money. “As properties go out of sheep and stop undertaking control, there is also the real danger of wild dogs pushing further west and impacting on the next sheep property there.” Gaps in the delivery of aerial baiting was a great concern to landholders in the region, with landholders worried that these areas were a source of wild dogs that moved onto adjoining private lands. Wild dogs were breeding and moving throughout the entire landscape, on both private and public land. Aside from the financial losses caused by wild dog predation, there is also a major impact on the emotional health of those farmers affected by wild dogs, which is hard to measure. Dealing with animals’ extreme injuries, the need to euthanase animals, and never knowing what you may find next time you enter a paddock is a huge burden to carry and takes an enormous toll on individuals. TURNING A CORNER This dreadful situation is beginning to change, following the signing and implementation of three Wild Dog Management Plans in March this year by the Wongwibinda Wild Dog Control Association (WDCA), Chandler River WDCA and Jeogla WDCA. Each of these three WDCAs have a membership of public and private land managers. For the first time all three wild dog groups autumn baited at the same time in May this year, which had been a major issue in the past. Furthermore, a substantial increase in baiting was undertaken across all land tenures – in National Parks and State Forests, as well as private land. With much of the region including steep and forested country with limited road access, broad scale aerial baiting coordinated by LLS was undertaken. A new AWI-funded wild dog facilitator provided assistance to revise many of the historical aerial baiting runs, based on current wild dog activity and impacts, including additional runs being delivered in rough country in private ownership. With cooperation from NPWS, additional strategic THE VITAL STEP IN WILD DOG CONTROL FAST FACTS • Sheep producers around Wongwibinda, 60km north-east of Armidale on the Northern Tablelands of NSW, have got on the front foot to reduce the devastating number of wild dog attacks on their flocks. • With the assistance of an AWI-funded wild dog facilitator, the producers are now collaborating effectively with private and public land managers and stakeholders. • Combatting wild dogs along this eastern fringe on the Tablelands is important not only for the sheep producers here on the escarpment, but also to stop wild dogs moving further west and into sheep producing areas where the pests are currently not as established. aerial and ground baiting lines were added to some key areas of adjoining public estate. The delivery of a strategic and coordinated baiting program consisting of targeted aerial and ground baiting across private and public estate has started to show dividends with a reduction in wild dog sightings and attacks reported by landholders in the regions. All stakeholders also actively participated in the annual autumn ground baiting program on more accessible country, in conjunction with the aerial baiting, with regular checking and replacing of baits, and continuation of baiting until bait take declined. As well as these coordinated strategic initiatives, the new Wild Dog Management Plan also includes agreed responsibilities and procedures after reports of wild dog activity and/or predation, for example in relation to requests to the NPWS for the deployment of a professional wild dog controller for baiting and/or trapping on an affected property adjoining NPWS land. Following the autumn baiting program a professional wild dog controller was employed, using AWI funding, to trap and bait any dogs that remained on private land and help bring the area back under control. Aerial baiting has been scientifically proven to remove more than 90% of dogs at rates of 40 baits per km. However, to be effective, integrated control using a range of additional methods is required to control any remaining dogs. NPWS also conducted proactive control on their estate at the same time to remove dogs which had evaded the aerial baiting program or had moved into the areas after the program was completed. Northern Tablelands LLS Invasive Species Team Leader, Mark Tarrant, says the agreement by all stakeholders on the Wild Dog Management Plan was the “keystone” that had been missing from wild dog control activities in the region. “Obtaining agreement on the Plan from all stakeholders has put wild dog control on the front foot again,” he said. “There has been a huge increase in participation and everyone is working to an agreed outcome. This should continue into the future, so it’s a big win.” This sentiment is echoed by Janelle Brooks, the NPWS area manager for the Dorrigo Plateau during the development of the Plan. “The finalisation of the Plan has meant there 32 ON FARM
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