Dogged effort needed to stop devastation

MARC SIMOJOKIGreat Southern Herald

Researchers from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre believe the pastoral sheep industry could be on its knees in the next 30 years without a renewed, co-ordinated effort to stop the devastating impact of wild dogs.

In a report published this month, researchers Ben Allen and Peter West looked at historical sheep distributions in Australia and concluded rangeland production was likely to disappear in the next 30 to 40 years at the present rate of wild dog activity.

Kulin farmer and Eastern Wheatbelt Declared Species Group chairman Jim Sullivan said just four years ago the sheep industry east of Kulin was almost wiped out by dog attacks.

Mr Sullivan said dogs had been forced out of the Goldfields following the collapse of the sheep and goat industry, which effectively wiped out the dogs’ food supply, and were making their way lower into the Wheatbelt.

“We went from marking 1400 lambs a year to about 350 at the worst and that was without what was happening to the grown sheep as well,” he said.

“It virtually decimated the sheep industry in the area.”

Since then the group has employed a dogger and fixed the vermin fence stretching from Geraldton to Esperance, which Mr Sullivan said had resulted in drastic reductions in dog attacks.

The group also conducts aerial baiting but Mr Sullivan said there was concern over the future of joint State Government and shire funding for the program.

“A lot of people seem to have the impression that a few dogs don’t matter and that is not the case because they breed up very quickly, ” he said.

“Our main concern at the moment is because we have them under control and the dogger that we have employed has gone from catching 100 dogs a year down to 20, so people get the impression that there are no dogs out there.

“There are only no dogs out there because we’ve got them under control.”

Lake Grace-based Department of Agriculture and Food biosecurity officer Adrian Chesson agreed the problem was being managed in the lower and central agricultural region but was worse in recent years in the northern agricultural region.

Mr Chesson said the dogs had an untold economic impact on farmers and the only way to combat the problem was increased vigilance and management.

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