1500 wild dogs roaming in Clarence

UPWARDS of 1500 wild dogs may be roaming Clarence Valley bushland with their numbers, pack sizes and confidence growing, authorities said yesterday.

Senior ranger at the Grafton office of the Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Dean Chamberlain, said the office usually received about 1000 reports of wild dog sightings every year. This was, he said, ‘probably a small percentage of what’s out there’.

He said higher rainfall and grass growth in the past year had led to an increase in the number of macropods (including wallabies and bandicoots) in the area, which were food sources for feral dogs.

This had led to a 50 per cent increase in feral dog sightings.

“We were getting reports of packs of fours and fives in the past, but now it’s more like packs of sevens and eights,” Mr Chamberlain said.

And, he said, the ferals appeared to becoming less fearful of human contact, unlike their dingo relatives.

He said the authority mainly fielded calls from landholders whose livestock or domestic dogs had been attacked.

“They’ll go for calves, sheep, goats and sometimes weaker cows if they’re stuck in mud or something, or a pack might push a cow through a fence to get them caught up,” he said.

Mr Chamberlain said the authority had responded to feral dog sightings in the Ellandgrove area, south of Grafton, by arranging a 1080 baiting program complete with video monitoring.

He said he hadn’t seen any dogs on the remote camera as yet.

The Daily Examiner heard reports of up to 15 wild dog carcasses being found in the Ellandgrove area last week. Mr Chamberlain said he hadn’t heard of the claim.

“Most of the time we don’t see the carcasses, the dog just goes into the bush and dies ... people just don’t see them anymore,” he said.

According to the Department of Environment, Climate Change Water website, land managers are required by law to control wild dogs on their land.

“If people have got a feral dog problem, the first thing to do is to talk to the neighbours to get a picture of what’s going on and then contact us to implement a control program,” Mr Chamberlain said.

He said landholders should keep domestic dogs under control to prevent them from mating with wild dogs.

Options for a feral dog control program include:

 meat baits injected with 1080 poison;

 rubber jaw traps – used where there may be domestic dogs in the area;

 shooting – to the discretion of the landholder.

Mr Chamberlain said 1080 poison meat baits would be supplied by the authority and laid by landholders who had a chemical certificate.

For those landholders without certification, Mr Chamberlain said, there was usually a way the program could be implemented with the help of neighbours and the authority.

Traps rather than poison were used where a domestic animal was at risk of being poisoned.

He said animals trapped in these ‘soft-jaw’ traps were unharmed and would be killed humanely or handed over to the pound, depending on their classification.

There are at least 13 species of feral animals identified on the DECCW website as problems for native wildlife.

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