GROWING wild dog numbers were putting South Australia’s pastoral sheep industry at risk, according to Livestock SA president Geoff Power and former government trapper Brian ‘Goey’ Gill.
They believe the region’s sheep industry could suffer the same fate as Queenland’s flock if wild dog trappers were not employed to control dog numbers.
Mr Power visited Queensland last week as part of a National Wild Dog Action Plan meeting and said wild dogs had decimated that state’s sheep industry.
“Twenty-five years ago, the sheep population in Queensland was about 20 million, but the latest statistics showed it had dropped to under two million, with wild dogs the major reason for the switch.
“It is vital that we stop wild dogs now to protect the agricultural and livestock industries from these types of losses,” he said.
“This is particularly important with lamb and wool prices currently at record highs – it is a key economic industry in northern SA.”
Mr Gill said some SA pastoral flock owners had lost up to 20 percent of their lamb drops and ewe numbers from dogs “because they are killing in packs”.
“It’s catastrophic here at the moment.”
Mr Power said since the start of 2017, 91 wild dogs have been caught or shot on several stations near Roxby Downs to north of Port Augusta. Mr Gill said about 40 wild dogs were taken from the area in the same period of 2016. SA government funding of wild dog trappers ceased last year, but Mr Gill said there was work for at least two full-time doggers in the state.
“I was taking up to 10 dogs a week before I got moved on and there is an opportunity for a full-time dogger there for at least five years in that area.”
Mr Gill was now working as a private wool buyer and recently did some part-time trapping for the Wirriminna and Arcoona station owners, taking 20 dogs in about two weeks. He believed dogs could be breeding on the Roxby Downs, Andamooka and Purple Downs stations, formerly owned by BHP and now leased by native title holders.
“Since Christmas time, between Pernatty, Wirriminna, South Parakylia and Arcoona they’ve caught 160 dogs and most of them are coming from Roxby Downs way, because there is no dogger there now.
“Nothing is being done there since I dogged there last year,” he said.
“There are a lot of dogs there, so I don’t know if they’ve all pupped, they are moving south or if there is a hole in the fence, but I think everything should be investigated.”
Livestock SA is continuing its call for immediate action from the State Government in response to the reported huge increase in wild dog populations in pastoral regions north of Port Augusta.
Mr Power said it was critical that the SA government reinstated funding for two wild dog trappers in northern South Australia to ensure that wild dogs did not continue to move further south. Numbers had increased significantly on country inside the dog fence, with wild dogs breeding on land no longer managed by graziers.
While federal government funding had resulted in the 12-month appointment of a wild dog coordinator, due to start later this month, SA has not employed wild dog trappers since early 2016, when a Federal Government drought support program ended.
Livestock SA believes $300,000 a year would mean wild dog control could be undertaken at a level that would protect the agricultural industry.
Mr Power said Livestock SA believed the escalating number of wild dogs on ‘inside country’ – areas south of the dog fence – was putting the sheep industry at serious risk in these areas.
“It is critical from an economic and welfare perspective that wild dogs are controlled to protect this sustainable sheep industry.
“Once again, we plead for state government help on this issue. It is vital that this happens straight away to get on top of this problem and stop the spread of wild dogs further south in the state.”