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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
ON FARM 47 Protect the use of 1080 in Australia at all costs was the key message brought home by National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud, from a recent US study tour investigating predator management. Focusing on coyotes and wolves in Montana and Wyoming and their impacts on livestock production and management, Greg said the loss of 1080 as a control tool in 1971 was a significant factor in the decline of their national sheep flock. “Unlike Australia, 1080 in the US was not highly regulated with species-specific dose rates,” he said. “Instead, it was commonplace for farmers and government staff to inject large chunks of meat with corning syringes using 100% stock solution which resulted in the death of any carnivore or scavenger exposed to the meat. “I delivered a presentation on Australia’s predator control programs and how we use 1080 to the USDA Wildlife Services State Conference. “Staff were amazed to hear that we use such small, targeted dose rates to control predators, and while many would like to reinstate 1080’s use in the US, significant public opposition means it is unlikely to ever happen.” Without 1080 as a broadscale control tool, management of coyotes (their predator most similar to Australia’s wild dogs) is difficult, dangerous and expensive. “Primarily, coyotes are controlled by aerial shooting which works reasonably well in the open country but is far more problematic in the mountains,” Greg said. “Prior to me arriving in Wyoming, two men were killed when a plane, owned and operated by the Wyoming Wool Board, and engaged in aerial shooting, crashed.” Other forms of control used include canid pest ejectors, traps, snares, guardian dogs and ground shooting often with decoy dogs. The dogs are used to stir the pack up and lure the coyotes into the open where they can be shot by government officials. Greg also found it interesting wolves are heavily controlled and monitored under state government management plans. “There was huge focus on the reintroduction of Grey Wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1980s and, for some time wolves were protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act,” he said. National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud came home from an AWI and Invasive Animals CRC-funded study tour of the US, a myth-buster. Wolves are not like dingoes and non-lethal control measures aren’t always safe or effective. Most importantly, he brought home some valuable lessons on predator control for us all. “With management of wolves since handed back to the states, following development of federally-approved management plans, their populations and distributions are now heavily regulated through control actions and hunting programs. “In Montana every pack living near livestock is monitored using radio collars. They get a two-strikes -and-you're-out policy, with two attacks on stock resulting in complete removal of the pack through aerial shooting and trapping. “This has limited their impacts to a degree, however, they still cause huge problems on the summer range, where herders take stock up to high country leases.” Greg said guardian dogs are widely used but accompanied by fulltime shepherds, usually from nomadic cultures such as Peru, Nepal and Bhutan. “The guardian dogs serve more as an alarm than a defence and despite their presence, wolves and coyotes regularly kill livestock, albeit less than if the guardians weren’t there,” he said. “Movement of wolves into the plains, west of the northern Rockies, is a serious concern for ranchers as their size, about 60-70kg, and numbers mean they often overpower and sometimes kill the Great Pyrenees and Anatolian guard dogs commonly used there. “Coyote packs have also worked out that if they can distract the guardian dogs, other pack members can get a kill.” Contrary to popular belief, Greg found dingoes are far more similar in size, behaviour and social structure to coyotes than wolves and said comparisons between the role of wolves in Yellowstone and dingoes in Australia are unrealistic. “Coyotes were much more abundant in most of the landscapes visited and were a far greater problems for livestock producers than wolves,” he said. “On average most of the ranchers interviewed lost between 12 to 25% of lambs annually to predators, primarily coyotes. “At one property I visited, 400 lambs were killed out of 2,500 weaned and, after putting a plane in the air, the US Department of Agriculture shot 28 coyotes on their 2024ha property.” Greg said predator management in the US is far less coordinated and often reactive, unlike in Australia where Greg and the AWI wild dog coordinators work closely to support community-led, coordinated management campaigns to reduce wild dog impacts. “The trip highlighted that the approach advocated by industry, through the National Wild Dog Action Plan, really does put us at the forefront in terms of managing predator impacts when compared to the ad hoc approaches undertaken in other countries,” he said. PROTECT RESPONSIBLE, SUSTAINABLE 1080 USE John and Vicki Childs from Wyoming standing with a mount of one of the wolf pack responsible for killing 900 sheep on their ranch in one season.
In the Shops - September 2018