Wild dogs taking the bait in Upper Murray, but there’s a catch

Posted on 04/25/2020

ALERT: Stuart Morant is one of the few farmers in the Tallangatta Valley still running sheep. He says while it’s quiet now, that can change quickly.THE equipment regarded as the most effective in the battle against marauding wild dogs in Victoria in the past decade has been banned.

The large rubber-jawed Lane’s trap can no longer be used effective from December 30 last year.

Some farmers have expressed concern about the phasing out of the highly successful trap, but the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning believes it has other viable options.

There are smaller rubber-jawed traps used by the eight dogmen working in the state’s North East and the department, with some support from farmers, believes its baiting campaigns are starting to have a significant impact.

Recently released statistics indicate the dogmen are shooting and trapping a large number of dogs each year with the total increasing each of the past three years.

Back in 2014, just 179 dogs were killed by dogmen in the North East and Gippsland.

The number increased to 397 in 2015, with 195 in the North East, 439 in 2016 with 243 locally and last year 459 with 236 in our region.

Each of the past two years more dogs have been killed in the North East indicating there are still large numbers in the vast tracts of bush adjoining farming land.

Upper Murray farmer Neil Mitchell is sceptical about the prospects of trapping dogs with the smaller traps which are now being used.

Tallangatta Valley farmer Stuart Morant says the Lane’s rubber-jawed trap has been the most effective method of catching dogs in appropriate terrain.

And another Tallangatta Valley farmer, John Ried, believes it could be a disaster if the dogmen no longer have access to such traps.

It was back in 2008 that the Lane’s serrated jaw traps were banned in Victoria under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The legislation stipulated commercially manufactured rubber pads must be attached to the Lane’s traps and they had to be inspected every 24 hours instead of 72 hours as previously indicated.

Tim Enshaw, the co-ordinator of North East dogmen based at Wodonga, said the dogmen and farmers were given an exemption and extension to use such traps until December.

Mr Enshaw said it had always been the intention for people using such traps to “wean” themselves off them before their use became illegal. He said the department and its employees have no control over the Acts they work under.

Mr Enshaw said some of the dogmen think the smaller traps are good and others do not like them. “They are all using the small traps and they are catching dogs. They do work. They can work,” he said.

He believes the baiting programs are being successful in keeping dog numbers down. It is a fact conceded by Mr Mitchell, who says baiting is helping with eradicating young dogs, but older dogs are too cunning.

Aerial baiting was done near the Walwa and Shelley Rd area last year and it seems to have worked well along with the removal of large tracts of pines reducing habitat for wild dogs. Mr Enshaw said aerial baiting was done in the region last October and further such baiting is planned for around May.

“At the moment, it is done twice a year,” he said.

But he said the department still needs feedback from the community about dog sightings. He said the dogmen need to know where dogs have been seen so they can target those areas.

Another new method being used by the dogmen is a meat bait attached to a spring-loaded injector with 1080 poison inside. It is something used in the US for coyotes which is successful.

The theory is when a dog grabs the meat bait and tries to pull it upwards, the injector fires 1080 into its mouth and kills it. But there has been a hiccup to its use caused by the most cunning of birds – crows. Mr Morant set up five such baits with the assistance of a dogman near a pit where his dead stock carcases are dumped. All the baits were taken and the injectors did not discharge.

So a camera was set up to monitor the baits and showed crows taking the meat by pulling it sideways and avoiding a discharge of the poison. The dogmen are now hiding such baits to avoid them being detected by birds.

It will be quiet, and then something happens …The proof is in the pudding to some extent about the success or otherwise of wild dog control in our region.

At present, there are few reported stock killings which is pleasing for both the department and farmers running sheep.

But there are still a few hot spots and one is in the Tallangatta Valley on property owned by long-time farmer John Ried.

In an eight-week period from August to October last year, 13 dogs were shot on his property.

Mr Ried’s son, Brett, and two shooters who were allowed access to the property shot nine pups and four grown dogs.

“That’s a bit frightening. They are all in one particular area,” Mr Ried said.

The Ried property is near the Left Hand Rd in the Tallangatta Valley, but the block frequented by all the dogs is in a back block on Campbell’s Road. There is a spur which runs off the peak of Mount Cudgewa near the property and provides a proven easily accessable track for dogs.

Mr Ried had for many years a successful super-fine wool sheep flock of about 2000.

“We had our first kills in 1982,” Mr Ried said.

He erected electric fencing in a bid to keep the dogs out and fought a losing battle for 20 years.

The most difficult part was maintaining the fence in working condition in tough terrain and eventually the family got out of sheep.

Now he runs about 100 heifer cattle on his back block, but the dogs still have an impact.

“About three per cent of the heifers lose their tails,” Mr Ried said.

“The dogs chase them and bite off their tails.”

Last year one of the heifers suffered a large bite mark on its rump and has struggled to overcome it.

A couple of weeks ago, a big yellow dog was seen on the back block.

Mr Ried set up four bait stations and three were taken.

“I bait twice a year in autumn and spring,” Mr Ried said.

Further up the valley, last spring a pack of seven dogs were seen in one farmer’s paddock, but they quickly disappeared.

Stuart Morant is one of the few farmers in the valley still running sheep. He concedes the dog problem is relatively quiet at the moment.

“But I do not take much notice of that. They come and they go,” he said.

“There is only about three of us around here left with sheep.

“The baiting may have helped. You keep your fingers crossed. All is quiet and then something happens.”

DOG-FIGHT: Tim Enshaw, the co-ordinator of North East dogmen based at Wodonga, believes baiting programs are being successful in keeping dog numbers down. He said aerial baiting was done in the Upper Murray last October and further such baiting is planned for around May.

Opportunity for farmers to have their sayFarmers in the North East and Gippsland soon get their opportunity to comment on wild dog control measures.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s community workshops start later this month.

The workshops have been announced by the department’s state-wide manager for invasive species Vaughan Kingston.

“The workshops are an opportunity for the community to have input into the way dogs are controlled locally,” Mr Kingston said.

“Reducing the impact of wild dogs can be achieved by all land managers working together using a combination of trapping, baiting, shooting, exclusion fencing and good animal husbandry.

“The sessions will focus on local wild dog controllers and what they have caught on their trail cameras, as well as sharing the knowledge about current management techniques for wild dog control.

“We will also use this time to discuss what has worked well and what needs improving.”

Further information about the workshops in the North East can be obtained from Tim Enshaw in Wodonga.

The workshop for the Mansfield region will be held at Barwite from 10am to 1pm on February 27.

The following day there is a barbecue breakfast for the Corryong region at the Burrowye CFA shed, Guy’s Forest Road, from 8.30am to 11am.

Then on March 1 there is a barbecue breakfast from 8.30am to 11am at the Bullioh Hall for people in the Granya and Tallangatta region.

The Eskdale Football Ground is the venue on March 2 from 8.30am to 11am for people in the Mitta region. A workshop is being held at Alexandra on March 5, then the next day at Ovens from 10am to noon and on March 7 at Whitfield Sports Ground for a barbecue breakfast from 8.30am to 11am.

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