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Beyond the Bale : September 2013
44 44 Community baiting brings calm September 2013 BEYOND THE BALE 44 ON-FARM Landholders involved in an AWI- funded community baiting program in Glenaladale, near Bairnsdale in south east Victoria, are already noticing significant changes in and around their properties. Wild dog and fox activity has fallen; there appears to be an increase in native wildlife and many people are reporting a sense of ‘calm’ both on-farm and in the bush. Trevor Howden, who runs Merinos, crossbreds and beef cattle on a 900ha property on the fringes of the Mitchell River National Park, says the relief he feels as a result of participating in the program is immense. FAST FACTS l A coordinated community baiting program involving several adjoining landholders has reduced wild dog and fox activity in and around sheep properties in Glenaladale in Victoria. l AWI offers funding for communities affected by wild dogs to implement their own coordinated baiting programs. l Local knowledge (ie reports of wild dogs being seen and/or heard) is essential for developing an effective community baiting program. “It has taken a lot of stress off me, knowing I’m doing something proactive rather than waiting for the next attack,” he says. “The sheep are relaxed too, instead of bunching up in a tight group, they are lazing all over the paddock.” Trevor looked into community baiting after a series of wild dog attacks last winter. He lost more than 200 sheep and lambs in four weeks and resorted to shedding a small mob to protect them from a large pack of wild dogs that had become established in the area. Although Wild Dog Controllers (WDCs) from the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) controlled and removed the pack, Trevor wanted to prevent other dogs moving in. “One of our biggest challenges is the amount of habitat around here for wild dogs,” he says, citing parkland, plantations and native bush on both his and nearby properties as examples. “I realised we had to involve everyone in the community – not just the WDCs and sheep industry – if we were going to be able to head the dogs off in the future.” Unfortunately, there was (and in many communities, still is) a lack of awareness amongst landholders about the extent and impacts of the wild dog problem. “There are not many sheep farmers left around Glenaladale so a lot of landholders do not have experience with wild dogs,” says Trevor. “Also, many people assume you are talking about dingoes, and therefore do not recognise a wild dog if they see one.” Trevor began taking photos to build awareness and help landholders identify wild dogs. This triggered a valuable flow of information from members of the community, many of whom recalled seeing ‘stray’ dogs that at the time had not seemed particularly noteworthy. “Once we started talking to people, we discovered how the dogs were moving across the landscape,” Trevor says. Soon, there was enough support for the Landcare group to apply for a grant through AWI’s Wild Dog Control Initiative to run its own community baiting program. Trevor, AWI’s community baiting coordinator Brian Dowley, and the local WDC, then worked together to develop the baiting program. So far, three bait runs have taken place, one month apart. A total of 1800 wild dog baits were laid across 10 properties covering approximately 5000 hectares by participants holding a 1080-endorsed Agricultural Chemical Users Permit (ACUP). While it’s likely foxes took many of the baits, the reduction in wild dog activity and anecdotal increase in wildlife suggests wild dogs were successfully targeted. “I’ve seen a lot more native animals, especially babies, and even a lyrebird, over the past few months,” says Trevor. His neighbour, Jack Malecki, agrees. “It’s hard to describe, but the bush is calmer and more relaxed since the baiting program took place,” he says. “The animals don’t seem as stressed or worried. The sense of danger has diminished.” Jack (who lost many of last year’s lamb drop to wild dogs) and Trevor are grateful for AWI funding. “The fact that AWI is funding the program is fantastic,” says Jack. “A practical outcome like this means a lot to us.” More information: www.wool.com/pestanimals 44 44 44 ON-FARM Wild dog and fox activity was reduced after the implementation of community baiting, according to woolgrower Trevor Howden of Glenaladale in south east Victoria