Wild dogs are not just a rural problem, and can also be rife on the urban fringe - attacking native wildlife such as koalas, family pets and livestock.
As urban residents are increasingly moving towards the outskirts of Australian towns and cities, a new video has today been launched to create further awareness of wild dog management in peri-urban areas of Australia and to emphasise how the community can play an integral role in managing this important problem.
Filmed on the Gold Coast in Queensland, the video was delivered as part of the Stage 2 implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan funded by the Australian Government.
Dr Michael Pyne, Senior Vet from Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, was interviewed as part of the video, saying, “sadly, we see dog attacks happening day after day here with the injured animals admitted here into the hospital.
“The damage they do is often quite frightening. Dog attacks cause a lot of crushing injuries, and infection from the bite wounds is often quite severe.
“The suffering linked to those dog attacks and that infection really would be immense and it would be an awful way for these wild animals to pass away,” Dr Pyne said.
Lionel Thomson, also featured in the video, works on the Gold Coast but lives on a property in the Hinterland, "going to work, and throughout the day, I think about what I’m going to come home to – it is quite distressing, you never know what you’re going to find.
“We’ve had a number of sheep taken during the day,” Mr Thomson said.
“The thing about these wild dogs is that they like to kill for fun. It’s just a game to them, and we are the ones who have to clean up the mess.”
The Gold Coast City Council is leading the way in coordinating community-led action to tackle wild dogs in the area.
The launch of this video coincides with new research undertaken on the Gold Coast showcasing the importance of community participation and engagement in managing the wild dog problem.
The research, delivered through the previous Invasive Animals CRC (now Centre for Invasive Species Solutions), showcases what drives the community to report wild dog sightings and act.
After undertaking surveys and focus groups, the analysis found that reporting wild dog sightings were enhanced when the community better understood the impact it would have on native wildlife and community safety.
Respondents also indicated that they would be a lot more likely to report wild dog sightings if the process was made easier. This is where easy-to-use apps such as FeralScan are an extremely important initiative.
Greg Mifsud, National Wild Dog Management Coordinator for the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions reiterated the importance of understanding the impacts of wild dogs in all regions of Australia, not just rural areas.
“From the bush to the beach, we need coordinated and targeted action to manage wild dogs and to reduce the impact they have. This video and ongoing research will hopefully raise much needed awareness that wild dogs are a problem in all areas of Australia and we must not get complacent,” Mr Mifsud said.
The research paper ‘Prioritizing community behaviors to improve wild dog management in peri-urban areas’ was published in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife and is available here.
(image provided by Currumbin Wildlife Hospital)
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Media contact: Ian McDonald, Communications Manager, Centre for Invasive Species Solutions P: 02 6201 2890 | M: 0429 985 643 | E: [email protected]
Wild dog control workshop
Landholders in the Anabranch, Pooncarie, Ivanhoe, Hillston and Balranald areas have until Friday, January 20 to register for the upcoming 1080 and Canid Pest Ejector (CPE) training and wild dog control workshops.
The one-day training sessions and workshops, which are running from Monday, January 30 to Friday, February 3, will inform landholders on the best practices for managing both wild dogs and foxes.
By successfully completing one of the 1080 and CPE training sessions, landholders will be issued a five-year accreditation to use baited products including purchasing 1080 capsules for CPE (also known as M-44 devices).
Senior Land Services Officer, Kade Small, hopes all five training sessions and workshops are strongly attended.
“All landholders need to be involved in this as past experience demonstrates the best results are achieved when landholders are proactive, prepared and coordinated,” Mr Small said.
“Wild dogs are an emerging issue in the South-Western region and therefore it is essential that landholders are prepared for potential management intervention.
“We’re really hoping for some strong numbers at each session, so I’d fully encourage everyone that can attend to do so.”
The wild dog control workshop, which will be presented after the training, will be delivered by an industry expert who will focus on a number of key topics, including:
· Eeffective 1080, CPE and foothold trap application and placement.
· Interpreting wild dog and fox evidence and signs.
· Wild dog and fox monitoring including utilising motion sensor cameras.
· Recording sightings and evidence in feral scan.
The 1080 and CPE training and wild dog control workshops are being supported by Australian Wool Innovation.
For further information , contact Mr Small on (03) 5021 9459 or Land Services Officer Shae Brennan on (02) 6967 1639 or visit: www.western.lls.nsw.gov.au/resource-hub/events.
Is it too late to bring the red fox under control?
The red fox may be the most destructive species ever introduced to Australia. For a start, it carries most of the blame for Australia’s appalling record of recent mammal extinctions.
Since European settlement, mainland Australia has lost at least 20 mammal species, far more than any other country over the same time period. Mostly these were bandicoots, bilbies, rat-kangaroos, quolls and hare-wallabies, along with relatively large rodents. Over vast areas of southern mainland Australia there are simply none of these medium-sized native mammals left - just seemingly limitless numbers of foxes and rabbits.
Did the fox act alone to cause these extinctions, or did it have help? Maybe other pressures - like competition from rabbits, changed fire regimes, or unknown diseases - were also important. The evidence, however, points consistently to foxes as the dominant cause. If other factors contributed it was probably by amplifying the predation pressure from foxes on native prey species. The European rabbit, for example, had an important subsidiary role by boosting fox numbers, and keeping them high even as native prey crashed to extinction.
The fox is also a significant pest to agriculture, mainly through preying on lambs and poultry. It can spread disease to domestic animals, and would be a carrier of rabies if that disease ever got into Australia (which is a distinct possibility). The combined environmental and agricultural impacts of foxes, and the effort expended on attempts to reduce that impact, probably costs Australia more than $200 million each year.
But it could all have been so different. A brilliant piece of historical research by Ian Abbott shows how difficult it was to introduce the fox to Australia. Victorian settlers, who were keen to indulge the “noble sport of fox-hunting”, released foxes on many occasions, beginning in the 1840s. Some early releases were evidently quite serious attempts to establish wild populations, such as a liberation of a group of at least six foxes in the Dandenong Ranges in 1864.
Released animals were rarely, if ever, seen again. They may have been killed by hunters or dingoes, or they might have taken poison baits that were laid for dingoes and stray dogs. In any case, they did not establish viable populations.
It was not until about 1874 that a fox population finally took off, on the Werribee Park property of the wealthy Chirnside family. From that point the fox was unstoppable. Despite all attempts at control it swept like an avenging fire through all of the southern half of Australia in just a few decades.
This history nicely illustrates an important biological principle. Small, newly introduced populations face a high intrinsic likelihood of going extinct. The small numbers of animals in such populations might be hard to find, but even poorly targeted control efforts can be useful if they increase those individuals’ risk of death, and therefore make it even more likely that the population will go extinct.
The Tasmanian State Government is attempting to push this population towards extinction using broad-scale poison baiting. This is controversial, but is the most sensible response to the risk that foxes will do to the Tasmanian environment what they have already done to mainland Australia.
As with any other well-established invasive species, it is very hard to turn back the clock and reduce the impact of foxes. Trapping and shooting generally have little effect on population size unless they are done intensively in well-defined areas where rates of re-invasion are low. Bounty schemes set up to encourage broad-scale fox removal by shooters, such as the program recently established by the Victorian State Government, are likely to be ineffective and wasteful.
There are four control options that can produce sustained reductions of fox impact.
First, poison baiting using 1080 can give good results, because foxes readily take poison baits. There is a particular advantage in the use of 1080 to protect wildlife from fox predation in Australia, because while foxes are highly susceptible to this toxin, native Australian mammals are much less so because it occurs naturally in some Australian plants. A drawback is that reduction in fox abundance can result in increased feral cats (which are also susceptible to 1080 but generally do not take baits), because foxes aggressively suppress cats. For some prey species, cats are just as significant a threat as foxes, or more so.
Fencing can be used to exclude foxes from high-value areas such as nature reserves, although the investment needed to protect large areas in this way is huge.
Livestock guardian dogs, such as the maremma sheepdog, have proved their worth in protecting livestock from many species of predators, including foxes. Guardian dogs have even been used to keep foxes away from seabird colonies in southern Victoria.
Finally, in some situations dingoes can reduce populations of both foxes and feral cats. They do this partly by hunting and killing them. Intriguingly, dingoes have been recorded killing foxes and cats but not eating their victims, as if the killing was motivated by simple malice. This is a good thing, because it means that foxes and cats fear and avoid dingoes, so that habitats in which dingoes are active can serve as refuges for prey species that are especially vulnerable to both foxes and cats.
Its a widespread problem, costing farmers thousands and cruelly killing young stock regularly.
According to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, wild dogs are costing farmers and governments up to $67 million a year. Three Rivers Helicopters owner and operator Lloyd Davidson has been battling the issue from the sky.
His company holds the right accreditations needed to aerially shoot wild dogs.
From above, Mr Davidson has seen firsthand the terrible effects wild dogs are having on farmers.
"Their calving rate would normally be towards 70-80%, but it has been brought back to about 40% for some of them," he said.
When wild dogs are "thick", he has helped cull up to 26 wild dogs within hours on a single property.
A DAF spokeswoman said the sheep industry in western Queensland was particularly hard hit.
Mr Davidson, who has been flying for about 10 years, said aerial shooting, with the combination of baiting and trapping, was making a difference in reducing the wild dog population.
"I have noticed a big difference in some parts," he said.
Mr Davidson described aerial shooting as extremely effective.
"Professional trappers and shooters do a great job. But when there is a pack of four dogs, they maybe get one or two. Then the others get gun shy," he said.
"We have a better strike rate from above."
The bird's-eye view of the land allows Mr Davidson and the shooter to see more places than on the ground.
"Farmers will tell me where they have noticed three or four, and point me in the right direction. But we end up coming back after killing 70-80," he said.
Mr Davidson said he would like to see more government funding allocated to combating the wild dog problem.
"Some of the times the farmers just have to come up with the money out of their own pocket," he said.
The term "wild dog" refers collectively to purebred dingoes, dingo hybrids and domestic dogs that have escaped or been deliberately released.
In Queensland, wild dogs create a number of economic, environmental and social problems - part