Learning from the past

  • Wild dog control has come a long way in recent years but the community needs to guard against complacency.
  • Effective wild dog management results from a nil-tenure, collaborative, community-driven approach.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to wild dog management but a range of tools and strategies that suit various situations and locations.
  • Continued investment in new tools and technology will see wild dog management become more effective and more target specific with improved animal welfare outcomes.
  • Victorian wild dog control has achieved some great wins in the past decade, but there will always be more work to do. Here we gain three different perspectives on the gains and challenges of wild dog control.

The wild dog controller – John Blair

 John’s first experience with wild dogs was as a farmer near Corryong, North East Victoria, during the 1980s. His sheep were attacked three times within a fortnight and the attacks continued sporadically until 2001 when, unable to sustain the emotional trauma and economic burden any longer, he sold his flock. However, his experiences set him on a new career path as a wild dog controller for the then Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment, a role he continues in today.

Q: Can you describe your early experiences with wild dog attacks on livestock?

It was devastating. I saw livestock with their sides split open which I had to shoot. It was soul destroying. In 2001, I replaced all our sheep with cattle because of the wild dogs.

Q:  Which strategies do you believe have had the greatest impact on wild dog numbers?

Having more on-ground resources has definitely helped. When I started as a wild dog controller, I was the only one in the Corryong area. As more controllers have been appointed, I have felt we’ve made more headway.

Experience has shown me that no one strategy works well all the time. Successful wild dog management is about employing the best combination of control methods for a situation and location.

Our greatly improved relationship with landholders has made a big difference to the overall success of control programs. We work very closely with them to prevent wild dogs impacting on their livestock.

 Q: What do you think the most valuable lessons for stakeholders are?

It is important to retain government support for local wild dog control programs and to keep landholders engaged in the issue and active on their properties.

From my experience, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we need to keep using all the tools available, including trapping and aerial baiting.

The producer – Tom King

Sheep producer Tom King has been keen on farming since he was a child. In 2012 he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and bought a sheep property at Swifts Creek with his mother. Since then, Tom bought out his mother’s share and now runs the business with his partner and her parents.

Q:  Which dog control strategies work best for you?

In 2014, DELWP put on a full-time controller who has done a fantastic job – he’s trapped and caught the dogs.

Ground baiting is also a good strategy to have in the toolbox, but I don’t think it is as effective as trapping on our property.

I use baiting around lambing time and a lot of other farmers in the area do too. Aerial baiting is effective because the baits are placed in inaccessible areas where wild dog controllers can’t get access. Hopefully the wild dogs in these areas of the livestock protection zone are less wary and more likely to take them.

Q: What do we need to do to ensure wild dog management remains effective?

Everyone needs to keep doing what they are doing – being proactive and working together.

Our controller does a lot of proactive trapping, particularly in the livestock protection zone on state land to capture wild dogs on the move. With a bit of luck, he’ll get them before they come onto our property.

It’s really important farmers communicate with the controller and the department so everyone knows what’s going on. Fighting amongst ourselves and government, as history has shown, doesn’t do us any good. The problem is still there and we need to maintain our control efforts.

The community engagement officer – Andy Wernert

In 2007, when Andy was the community engagement officer with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries’ wild dog program, he saw how sustained pressure from wild dog impacts forced many landholders out of the sheep industry.

Q: Tell us about your first encounter with the wild dog problem

The attacks were very disturbing for the producer and created a sense of helplessness.

At that time trapping was the main control method used to manage wild dog numbers, with only aging exclusion fencing and ad hoc baiting used as back-up.

People relied heavily on the department’s wild dog patrols and their trapping work and thought that was all that could be done.

Q:  Which strategies do you think had the greatest impact on wild dog numbers?

My role was to bring all the stakeholders to the table, to express their frustrations and put together a wild dog program that took into account local knowledge.

I would go to small towns and communities, roll out a big map, get coloured pens out and asked people to draw where the problems and incidents were so we could tap into local knowledge.

It was clear, if we were going to make any progress on the wild dog problem we were going to have to work together.

Q: What do we need to do to build on this success?

 The program is strong but no one can afford to become complacent.

Landholders, public land managers and agency staff need to remain committed to the nil-tenure, community-based, collaborative approach to wild dog management. It’s also important to keep using all the control tools available and matching the best control to the situation. New technology and techniques are in the pipeline but take time to be properly tested. We have to ensure new tools are safe for the user, humane for the wild dogs and don’t target other species.

Useful Resources:

How to report wild dog activity in Victoria

Victoria’s approach to wild dog control

To learn more about wild dog control techniques you can visit our wild dog toolkit

Wild dog

National Wild Dog Action Plan

Landcare: www.landcareaustralia.org.au

Australian Wool Innovation: www.wool.com

Best Wool Best Lamb: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/beef-and-sheep-networks/bestwool-bestlamb