Fire damage leaves landholders exposed to wild dogs

Five dogs caught by Tim Booth in the Enmore-Blue Nobby area after fires..
Five dogs caught by Tim Booth in the Enmore-Blue Nobby area after fires..

The NSW Government is due to announce new feral pest measures in the wake of the devastating NSW fires that have ruined hundreds of kilometres of dog fences, and sent feral animals into the green margins along burnt-out parks.

Trappers are already catching large numbers of dogs in areas not normally seen near Armidale. One trapper last Monday cleaned up five dogs out of seven sighted on a property.

Control and research programs have been savagely hit by the fires. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of monitoring equipment has been destroyed in the fires and a wild dog research program at Cathedral Rock National Park has been suspended until research staff can access the area.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has promised no research programs will be abandoned in the wake of the fire damage and is replacing damaged cameras.

Also NSW Agricuture Minister Adam Marshall issued a statement to The Land vowing the Government would rebuild the 200km or more of the dog fence destroyed by fires on the Northern Tablelands.

On the Northern Tablelands it is estimated up to 200km of dog fences has been wiped out by the fires. Producers and wild dog control experts say it is vital the fences are rebuilt and expanded so that people are confident to reinvest in the sheep and wool industry.

NSW Farmers delegate and Armidale woolgrower Andrew Wood said it was now imperative that the Northern Tablelands dog fence be rebuilt and extended.

The fence has been costed at about $18,000 to $20,000 per kilometre. "That's the cost of putting it up and clearing and removing fallen debris around it," Mr Wood said. "And then it has to be maintained. The Minister (Adam Marshall) is mindful of what we are asking for. Feral pest control has to be a big part of bushfire recovery and I hope that includes wild dogs."

Dave Worsley, Australian Wool Innovation's north-east NSW wild dog control co-ordinator, said it was "absolutely" important and "vital" for the dog fence to be rebuilt as part of the bushfire recovery plan. "From my point of view this is essential. You are not going to go back into sheep if a dog is going to pick off a $200 ewe one at a time. I'd say hundreds of kilometres of fences have gone and also there has been a large setback to ecology research." Dogs were on the move from fire zones searching for water and feed sources .

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall told The Land: "The full scale and impact of the bushfires in the Northern Tablelands is starting to be better understood with LLS staff undertaking more assessment work on burnt out properties."

"It is clear the Northern Dog fence has been severely damaged by the fires and I will be working with both LLS, National Parks and local producers to ensure the fence is fully re-instated.

"I've already met with local landholder representatives and assured them of this, so they have some confidence that fence will be completely replaced."

The Government says no wild dog have been stopped due to the fires, but staff are waiting to get safe access to sites. Many camera traps have been replaced.

Northern Tablelands LLS runs Australia's largest aerial baiting program for wild dogs with in 2019 29 wild dog associations (30-31 in most years); 400 landholders involved; 145,990 baits deployed by air and a total of 3649 km of bait line distributed by air.

The Department of Primary Industries issued a statement about the research programs being hit by the fires:

"NSW Department of Primary Industries has not abandoned any of its wild dog projects. NSW DPI has ongoing wild dog research projects in northern NSW, including a significant project in the Cathedral Rock National Park. Currently many NSW DPI research sites are inaccessible due to the impacts of bushfire," it said.

"Effective ground-based wild dog control programs are also affected and will be delayed until trails are cleared and safe.

"All NSW DPI wild dog monitoring sites will be up and running as soon as possible once safe access is restored. NSW DPI wild dog research is conducted in collaboration with Local Land Services, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, University of New England, Wild Dog Associations, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions and landholders."