Wild Dog & Pest Control

Vic sheep producer under dog attack told not to scare dingoes

Terry Sim, April 15, 2024

A NORTH-WEST Victorian sheep producer has been told he must convince authorities a wild dog or dingo attacked his sheep and that he has implemented all reasonable and effective non-lethal control measures before he will be issued a wildlife control permit.

Lawloit-based Alan Bennett, who estimates he has lost about 30 sheep from dog attacks in the past three weeks, has been denied an Authority to Control Wildlife after the Victorian Government changed wild dog control rules on accepting evidence the north-west dingo population is at risk of extinction.

Mr Bennett is one of the first farmers to be impacted by the government’s decision on 14 March to end the Wildlife Act (1975) Order In Council that while in force effectively ‘unprotected’ dingoes on private land, and on public land within a 3km buffer from the borders to private land, enabling baiting and trapping. On 1 October 2024, the government has said it will do the same in eastern Victoria.

Last week Mr Bennett was told via email by Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action director Callie Donaldson “that any deliberate scaring or active disturbance to dingoes may also require an ATCW (Authority to Control Wildlife).”

“So if they are eating my sheep, I’ve got to pretty much sit there and watch them do it,” Mr Bennett said.

“If they turn up and get into my chook house, I’ve just got to sit there and watch them eat my chooks, I can’t hunt them out of my chook house.

“It’s a full three weeks since I lodged the (ATCW) application and in anybody’s assessment that’s an unrealistic turnaround when we’ve got dogs attacking our sheep,” he said.

“Realistically if I can’t get a permit to take one dog out now I don’t think there is going to be any sort of application that will ever be granted.”

Mr Bennett said the tone of an email he received from Ms Donaldson was insulting and very dismissive.

“They hold the power and they are taking advantage of it.”

Ms Donaldson told Mr Bennett that: “Given evidence of the risk of extinction of the dingo population in north-west Victoria, I must consider the implications of any control on the long-term survival of this population.”

She also told Mr Bennett she is considering refusing his application, “on the basis that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the damage being caused is proportionate to the impact of the proposed control on the wildlife population which is at risk of extinction.”

Mr Bennett said this raises the question as to what level of damage is sufficient for the Victorian Government to allow a marauding dog or dingo to be killed in the north-west.

“What is that level of cost, we’ve probably lost 30 grown sheep, I think we are losing lambs now – what’s the figure?

“Is it 100 sheep, is it $5000, $10,000, if they are going to have that attitude and sit in judgment on our losses? He said.

“The other thing they can’t put a figure on is the emotional toll it is taking on us, and the time that it is taking.”

Mr Donaldson told Mr Bennett she acknowledged the “difficulty and concern” that the damage to his livestock may be causing him.

“Acknowledging my loss doesn’t do me any good; he doesn’t pay me for the sheep, it doesn’t stop the dogs from taking my lambs right now – it’s an absolute insult to be honest,” Mr Bennett said.

He said DEECA is asking for more evidence of the attacks when he has already had two DEECA officers on the property collecting evidence at the site of the initial attack, who refused an invitation to be taken to where the most recent attacks occurred and left the property “saying they had gathered enough information.”

“So either they haven’t been briefed well enough or haven’t done their job well enough that now they come back on me and the responsibility is now on me to gather this information in my own time and expense to keep this process going.

“They just keep shifting the goal posts, in my opinion.”

Ms Donaldson told Mr Bennett to make a decision on his application she must be satisfied that damage is being caused by wildlife named in the application, all reasonable non-lethal control options have been implemented and of the effectiveness of the proposed control to mitigate the risk of ongoing damage.

Mr Bennett said north-west farmers were not consulted about the new ATCW rules and the first he knew of a change was when his initial ATCW application was denied because of the impending unprotection buffer policy change, but before it was implemented on 14 March.

“We had no consultation, we weren’t included in discussions.”

He believes his initial ATCW application should have been granted and acted on because it was made before the buffer policy was announced.

“They’ve actually done the wrong thing because they haven’t played by the old rules.

“They bring the new rules in and then suddenly all these new rules involve all these requirements that we are supposed to suddenly click our fingers and have exclusion fencing and guardian animals with all our flocks, well how the hell do we do that? he said.

“We can’t change our farming practices at the snap of our fingers.”

Mr Bennett said he has erected about 5-6 kilometres of exclusion fencing and planned to do another eight kilometres, and has repaired an existing netting fence, but there is “just ridiculous” pressure from kangaroos leaving the adjacent Big Desert Wilderness Park seeking food and water on his property. The dogs were accessing his land through the holes made in the fence by the  kangaroos.

“Once again this our State Government being a really good neighbour.”

He said alpacas had been trialled, but were no match for a wild dog. He hasn’t tried guardian dogs or donkeys.

“They can make the rules up as they go along, which is sort of what is happening now.”

Mr Bennett has destocked about 2000 hectares across two properties adjacent to the Big Desert Wilderness Park to limit further losses, but has had to leave lambing ewes and ewe weaners.

No time given for farmers to adjust

National wild dog management coordinator Greg Mifsud said the Victorian Government has implemented its decision in north-west Victoria without consultation with affected producers.

“It takes a long time to get a Maremma (guardian dog) to work in a paddock with livestock, it takes a long time to get a donkey to be acclimatised and undertakes his role and takes a long time to put up a fence.

“So you can’t just say this is going to occur from today without giving landholders an opportunity to phase in all those non-lethal control tools that take a considerable amount of time to become established,” he said.

“This is where this Victorian process and this commentary from Callie Donaldson is inconsistent and shows their complete disregard and ill-informed knowledge on how long it takes to implement non-lethal control effectively.

“If they were genuinely concerned about consultation and engaging with stakeholders on this, they would have allowed a phase-in period which would have given people an adequate amount of time to implement non-lethal control prior to make the area fully protected and that would mitigated the issue we are dealing with right now with Alan Bennett.”

Mr Mifsud questioned the level of evidence that farmers are being asked to produce to prove dog or dingo attacks.

“What else is out there that is going to cause that level of damage to stock.

“Genuine ecologists would look at that (sheep mauled) and say that is obviously an attack by a large canid, much larger than a fox, it’s not an eagle — nothing out there in the landscape is going to do it, and removing one dog from a population is not going to affect the population’s viability.”

Mr Mifsud said the department also has not said what has been the historical size of the north-west dingo population.

“They are all saying there is only 40 to 260 there currently, and it could have been that for the last 50 years.

“The density of dingoes in similar semi-arid environments across the country is quite low, so realistically 40 to 260 is probably what you would expect in there anyway, given the productivity of that landscape,” he said.

“The Victorian Government has not come and said what numbers they would expect there based on the food, water and habitat availability.”


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  1. John and Rhonda Crawford, April 17, 2024

    Terry, thank you for keeping us informed about the wild dog/dingo situation in the north-west of Victoria. It was our greatest fear that this would happen. In a few months/years the wild dogs will be coming south, and it seems we are powerless to stop them. We reckon the same thing will happen in the north-east of the state before September. It is madness to think that the wild dog control program that the sheep producers in the north-east helped to develop over 25 years ago may be stopped. Maybe it is time to load a truck full of mauled sheep and lambs attacked by wild dogs/dingoes and take it to Melbourne and unload it on the state parliament steps, like the French farmers do? Maybe then we might get some common sense to prevail. This government does not care about farmers, they only care about city votes. The farmers have been forgotten.

  2. Ellisha Martion, April 16, 2024

    Where is Mifsud getting 40-260 dingoes from?? Because at last count, there was potentially only 40 left! If he really does have an ecology degree, he would know that a population of 40 is on the brink of extinction. Also if you knew the area you would know there is a donkey breeder in Patchewollock. Darren Smith, the livestock producer that claims he loses so many sheep up at Patchewollock would also know this.

  3. Ellisha Martion, April 16, 2024

    Haven’t had time to adjust?
    Livestock producers are supposed to use non-lethal options first, than lethal control as a last resort. The Ag Department and dingo management teams have failed livestock producers through not using or supporting the use of non-lethal options. This is 100 percent on Greg Misfud, and his team along with the Victorian dingo controllers. Livestock farmers also need to take accountability. Proper fencing and guardian animals have been around for centuries; these are not new methods.
    And they are dingoes not “dogs”. And might I suggest, if you have a “dog” problem go to the local council because there are no “dogs” in the Big Desert/Wyperfeld.

  4. Glenn Nix, April 15, 2024

    The wheels have fallen off and oh no, there goes the head. When did the wankers take over things? I must have missed it; between the heritage rules and the live sheep debacle. Wall to wall trots . I don’t know how much more of their stupid I can take before I lose my brown stuff.

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