The Litchfields hadn’t had a wild dog attack on their remote sheep property in the eastern Monaro for 15 years until a spate of attacks in recent months saw 20 sheep killed and 35 mauled.
Landholders along the area from Nimmitabel up to Braidwood are reporting many wild dogs attacks, which the Forestry Corporation blames on the drought forcing dogs further afield into grazing land.
The Litchfields live on the edge of a Forestry Corp forest and a national park at Badja north-east of Cooma, and have had to remove their sheep from an adjoining paddock to the state forest, not able to sustain any more losses.
They want to send a damages bill to the Forestry Corp for loss of their stock running into tens of thousands of dollars because they say the ending of a nil-tenure agreement with Forestry Corp, meant state forests became breeding grounds for wild dogs.
Trappers, known as PACs (Pest Animal Controllers) are allowed into national parks and on to grazing lands, in consultation with Local Land Services, but not into state forests.
A co-ordinated baiting program between LLS, Parks and land managers is producing great results in many areas of the Monaro. A recent baiting field day was held and more than 20,000 baits are to be placed over the next few months. The LLS were praised by graziers for their help and co-ordination with the program. But the PACs cannot go into state forests, and Forestry does all its own wild dog management. It has recently reset baits and done aerial baiting in the Badja area.
If the Litchfields have a problem with a dog in a state forest, a wild dog controller has to be brought over from Tumbarumba, nearly 250km away.
“When the nil-tenure agreement broke down that’s when all the problems started,” Helen Litchfield said.
“We had a series of attacks so we called in a PAC to our property and he trapped three large dogs. We thought ‘great, that’s fantastic’, but within a week three more dogs came in.”
“We have a co-ordinated baiting program that takes control of smaller dogs and foxes but the bigger dogs need trapping, and they are in the state forests. “ The older dogs became bait shy.
“These big wild dogs have bred up in the state forests in the Badja area.”
The Litchfields and other concerned landholders are meeting with the Forestry Corporation and the LLS to discuss their concerns.
The LLS position is that an integrated approach is essential to controlling wild dogs. “It would be wrong to say that the Forestry Corporation is doing nothing,” LLS south east manager Luke Pope said. “Of course we would always prefer we attack wild dogs at the source rather than trying to control them on a farmer’s property,” Mr Pope said.
Forestry Corporation’s South Coast protection supervisor Julian Armstrong said it was very wrong to say the Corporation was neglecting baiting of wild dogs.
“We are doing the same as we’ve done for 20 years with a lot of success. We have re-baited set areas in the last two to three weeks and we aerial baited in late May.”
He said there had been mounting dog attacks to stock up and down the South Coast and he put this down to the drought forcing dogs further afield for water and food. “There have been quite extensive stock losses, and quite a few attacks in the last few months.”
He denied the Corporation wasn’t involved in integrated control programs. “We work together pretty well.”
Some Kybeyan farmers though believe the Corporation could do more to integrate with landholder baiting programs.
Trapper Roger Roach agreed with Mr Armstrong that the drought was forcing many dogs out of the forest into farming areas. “You have bigger kills but we think the group baiting program is holding very well,” he said. Most dogs were about 80 to 90 per cent pure dingo. Dogs only became bait shy when they were older. Wet wintery weather meant poison in baits was sometimes watered down and did not fully kill the dogs. The Land was given photos of a Kybeyan dog attack where just the front legs of sheep were torn down to the bone. Eventually the large dog was caught, almost a pure bred dingo.