Fence still needs the trapper

Old and new technology work side by side in fight against feral animals

Sheep
A 742km extension to the NSW, Qld, SA border fence has been announced but trapper Sam Peate says traditional techniques are still required.

A 742km extension to the NSW, Qld, SA border fence has been announced but trapper Sam Peate says traditional techniques are still required.

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Government cvalls for tenders to supply materials for the world's longest dog fence, but a Tablelands trappers says wire alone won't stop ferals.

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Work will begin on what will become the world's longest wild dog fence by mid year, with the NSW Government now calling on tenders for materials, worth $11.2 million.

Announced this week, a 742km extension to the NSW, Qld, SA border fence will require 190,000 metres of apron mesh, 770,000m marsupial mesh, 37,000 pine posts and 300 gates.

Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Adam Marshall said using local businesses to build the fence was a top priority for the NSW Government.

But wild dog trapper Sam Peate, who works around the Wongwibinda area east of Armidale, said a fence on its own wouldn't solve the problem of predation by feral animals. The job of the trapper remains important as ever, although new technology helps make the work more productive, he said.

Field cameras record critical data and as prices come down, the future will certainly include thermal imaging equipment. However, at the end of the day, traditional skills come to the fore, burying traps along known tracks and using mounds of dirt and upright twigs to encourage correct placement of a paw into the jaws.

Laying the trap requires a deft touch, as a wild dog will walk around a broken stick in its path, never mind disturbed ground. "There is an art to doing it right," Mr Peate said.

Scent like vanilla extract, honey essence or hairspray sometimes catches a curious predator but actual scent glands from a destroyed dog, along with their urine and scat, are the best baits. The old timers believe trimmed horses' hooves anaerobically cured in a sealed jar of water are pretty good attractants too. "Where I find a sign I set a trap," he said.

Urine and feces are good signs of a boundary marker and Mr Peate uses his faithful Wolfhound, Foxhound, Arab cross pig dog, a gentle giant at home, to sniff up scent. But his big feet are a problem, so Mr Peate employs a black Kelpie more the size of a wild dog to defecate on established boundary markers, so as to fool the prey.

The trapper traded a brand new chainsaw for the pup on the premise it would turn out to be good with cattle, which it wasn't. "But she finds dingo scent," he said.

Learning to read your own dog when it has found scent is an important skill.

New advances in wild dog detection will also assist land managers and trappers in the job of managing pest animal populations.

A first-of-its-kind mobile phone application developed by University of New England and NSW Department of Primary Industries now makes sense of the thousands of images to alert the farmer or trapper if there's a target animal in the area.

DPI research scientist Paul Meek said new technology would not displace the traditional trapper or the aerial baiting programs.

These proven methods of pest animal management remain important components in managing wild dogs to reduce negative impacts on livestock, native wildlife, local communities and the environment.

As part of a Centre for Invasive Species Solutions project, Dr Meek and a team of NSW DPI and University of New England have this year published a paper in the scientific journal, Animals, verifying the value of their camera trap software.

The project, co-funded by the DPI, UNE, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation, is also preparing to release a device that fits under the soft jaws of leg hold traps and lets the trapper know when they have closed.

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