The complexities of trying to manage a wild dog problem was clearly outlined at an information night, last week at Central Bucca west of Coffs Harbour where canid ecologist Paul Meek and Local Land Services officer Mark Robinson gave an account of their on going research as part of the North Coast Peri Urban Vertebrate Pest Project.
Just three people attended, with numbers significantly down on previous meetings. The poor attendance partially explains the sometimes casual attitude towards 1080 baiting in the peri-urban area, which in the western Coffs Harbour district contributes to wild dog procreation.
Obviously wild dogs take some livestock along their way – certain individuals do it more than others. There is evidence of single dogs pursuing a favourite prey and getting quite clever at their trade.
It’s the same way with domestic dogs. Some are are homebodies and others just love to go walkabout.
At tremendous effort the team have tracked the movements of 18 dogs, 10 foxes and two feral cats often retrieving the critical collars, which hold detailed movement data, under thick lantana and on steep mountainsides. The effort is proving rewarding with data yielding eye-opening results.
One dog, nicknamed Qantas by the daughter of Coffs based canid ecologist Paul Meek, lived in the mangrove and salt grass swamp beside the city airport, moving to higher ground during times of flash flooding and always hidden by bush.
Another remarkable individual, ‘Midnight’, named for his shiny black coat, with a white belly like the milky way, began his journey in the peri-urban forests west of the city before going on a record exploration of some 530km.
From the coast he followed the base of the steep escarpment under Dorrigo and up the Bellinger past Thora eventually reaching Bellbrook on the Macleay via the upper Nambucca and from there up onto the Tablelands through the Styx River catchment
From this point Midnight turned north, skirting the Eastern Fall where there is plenty of cover and edge habitat, ignoring carefully laid 1080 bait trails, to traverse rugged gorge country in the upper Nymboida.
He visited a lot of wild World Heritage areas, like Chaelundi where the giant Tallowwood trees grow and down over the Mann River to Gibralter and Washpool, where his collar fell off automatically, on private land, after six months of recording. For all his followers know Midnight is still out there, living life on the edge.
The random nature of these intelligent animals is proving a management challenge but the research team will now focus on using this ecological knowledge to develop tools for action.
Theft bill $80k a blow to research
Expensive field camera traps, designed to take images of elusive critters like wild dogs and a plathora of native wildlife, are being targeted by thieves and vandals despite the published fact that the equipment is code locked.
In a combined feral pest management study area that stretches from Hat Head to the Queensland Border and west to the Tablelands, an estimated $80,000 worth of cameras have been taken from study sites. This cost does not include the steel housing these cameras are locked in nor the labour required to concrete the units 1.5m deep into the ground.
In the first week of deployment on a project west of Coffs Harbour a dozen cameras disappeared with the first lifted out of the ground by a truck mounted Hiab crane before the concrete cured. Other ‘vandal-proof’ stations were cut open with hydraulic shears. Apparently the problem is global.