Max is waging a war on pests

Zach RelphCountryman
Licenced pest management technician Max Siemer.
Camera IconLicenced pest management technician Max Siemer. Credit: Cally Dupe

Max Siemer is at the frontline of Esperance’s wild dog war.

The 25-year-old professional dogger predominately covers farmland on the western side of Coolgardie-Esperance Highway for the Esperance Biosecurity Association.

From setting traps to strategically placing baits, Mr Siemer can often spend nights away from his family’s Scaddan-based farm with his swag to sniff out the savage canines.

However, the long hours are worth it for Mr Siemer if his efforts spare a farmer’s flock from a wild dog attack.

“Stock being taken is devastating for the farmer,” he said.

“It is sad when you hear that they’ve lost their hard-work, with dogs destroying their prized possessions.”

Mr Siemer, pictured, gained his licensed pest management technician accreditation to become a dogger following a week-long intensive course in Carnarvon in 2016.

Since then, he has not looked back while working across the Southern Biosecurity Group, a sub-group of the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network, and EBA.

After juggling both the Ravensthorpe and Esperance duties for a while, the passionate dogger currently only co-ordinates the EBA’s dog control.

“I couldn’t put a number on how many dogs I’ve got over the years,” he said. “In the past fortnight, I’ve pulled two out of bush in Salmon Gums that were causing a few dramas — it was good to have a happy landholder after they were found.”

Wild dogs have wreaked havoc at Goldfields-Nullarbor pastoral stations and forced many pastoralists to sell their flocks about a decade ago to avoid the constant attacks. The pest is believed to be a mixture of dingo and domestic dogs. When dogs from the Goldfields-Nullarbor infiltrated the Esperance agricultural zone more than a decade ago, the EBA called for the State Barrier Fence to be extended.

Construction on the pest-proof barrier’s long-awaited Esperance extension started last year.

The development will extend the fence 660km from its end point 25km east of Ravensthorpe, north around Salmon Gums and terminate east of Esperance, near Cape Arid National Park, once complete.

“The dog fence will be a key asset to control,” Mr Siemer said.

“It won’t just help against the dogs, but it will also protect many grain growers’ crops from kangaroos and the emu migration.”

Until the mid-1990s, the State Government’s Agriculture Protection Board doggers managed the wild dog population, which was primarily near the Great Victorian and Little Sandy deserts.

However, when the APB was absorbed by the Department of Agriculture under former premier Richard Court, the doggers were cut in mandatory budget slashing.

It is believed the lack of on-ground dogger control helped the canine pest to travel from WA’s remote north, through the pastoral area and into the Goldfields, Murchison and Mid West.

The State Government’s $18.6 million Wild Dog Action Plan is among schemes aiming to curb the threat through pest control, research and development. WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has now confirmed $750,000 would fund eight licensed doggers for another year.

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