SHOCKING LOSSES: Landholders in the Upper Hunter are faced with problems from escalating wild dog attacks. They say the dogs are leaving National Park and State Forests in search of food.Upper Hunter farmers are no longer in-charge of managing their properties that role has been snatched from them by a motleybunch of vicious ferals.
Wild dogs are now in charge ofareas east and west of Scone particularly in the headwaters of the Hunter River –Tomalla, Hunter Springs and Moonan Flat.
These eastern fall areas were once home to tens of thousands of sheep, in fact at one stage, the historic Belltrees property near Gundy ran 100,000 sheep.
Today commercial numbers of sheep are only found onsix properties between Scone and the Barrington Tops and the reason for this change in landuse is simply the impact of wild dogs.
No matter what the landholders do the attacks on their flocks areworsening and they are being forced to run cattle on land that is really not suited to beef production.
This is happening at a time of record returns for wool and fat lambs which just adds to the frustration of thefarmers.
On the prowl
Moonan Flat producer Gavin MacCallum said the vast majority of the land in his districtwas ideally suited to sheep production.
“But we have been forced out of sheep because of the pressure from wild dogs. No matter what we do their numbers increase and so do the attacks,” he said.
He, like his neighbours, hashad a gut full of asking for help and their pleas being ignored.
Fairfax Mediahas been told by a number of landholders the dogs are coming out of National Parks and State Forests.
“We weretold by staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) that they have caught, on camera, photographs of 40 dogs in just one week,” said Nathan Mamone, Tomalla.
Mr Mamone used to run 3000 sheep on his property, located one kilometrefrom Barrington Tops National Park, today that number is slashed and he runs cattle and works off-farm all thanks to dog attacks.
“Its just so depressing to get out each morning and see your sheep ravaged,” he said.
At Moonan Brook, Neville Hayne, “Castlesprings” says his battle with wild dogs takes up 70-80 per cent of his time.
“I am not spending anytime working on the farm I am just chasing dogs all day. I’ve gone through three quad bikes trying to control them, we are being chewed out by dogs,” said an exasperated Mr Hayne .
His wool cheque is already down $15,000 this year due to sheep losses from dog attacks.
He was critical of the NPWS use of perimeter mound baitingsaying it doesn’t work as dogs don’t like digging up meat.
“Its a complete failure and the situation is getting worse each year,” he said.
Mr Hayne said the dogs were also getting bolder and therefore more dangerous over time.
Across the valley near Merriwa Peter Campbell said dogs were a problem with landholders near Goulburn River National Park.
“As responsible landholders we have to control feral pests and weeds on our land but it appears NPWS don’t have to,” he said.
“We want managers of all public lands to adopt ourattitude when it comes to managing feral pests. These dogs will be harming native fauna as well as livestock.”
Mr Campbell said after lengthy negotiations landholders were able to get professional trappers into the Goulburn River National Park earlier this year.
“But it was at their costs and it took a long time to gain NPWS approval. The trappers caught six dogs,” said.
“Its was a great result but really should landholders have to pay for the management of the park.”
The six joined another 14 caught last year with Mr Campbell saying farmers were already reporting less attacks on their sheep thanks to the campaign.
“Imagine if we all worked together what could be achieved,” he said.
Anecdotal reports say wild dogs are now attacking calves near Barrington Tops National Park something landholders have long predicted.
Many frustrated and angry farmers are hopingthe formation of a funded trapper program run by Hunter Local Land Services will make an impact on the dog problem.
We want the NPWS to join this funded program so we are all working together for the betterment of the whole community, said Mr Campbell.
A sentiment supported by Mr MacCallum who along with others producers is sick and tired of talking to NPWS and getting no support.
“Parks are our neighbours but we are bearing the burnt of their poor management and that is so unfair. Why can a neighbour ruin your livelihood,”? asked Mr MacCallum.
Hunter LLS, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and mining companies have pledged funding for the trapper program that will start next financial year.
Mining giant Glencore will be funding $150,000 over three years in partnership with Hunter LLS to support wild dog control efforts across the Hunter.
“As part of our operations, we work closely with landholders across the Hunter on a daily basis so we understand the significant losses being caused by wild dogs,” said Glencore’sCommunity Relations Manager Craig Strudwick
Wild dogs caught on camera in the eastern fall district at the headwaters of the Hunter River.
“This funding will be in addition to the co-ordinated work we’re undertaking with neighbouring property owners at all of our sites to control wild dogs in the region.”
NPWS, spokesperson said last weekNPWS received a request from Hunter LLS, to contribute toa new wild dog program being developed for the Upper Hunter.
“Wild dog controlis a keypriority for NPWS in thisregion, and we will continue to work cooperativelywith LLS to identify opportunities to support the new program,” they said.
NPWS undertakes both strategic and reactive wild dog control programsat Barrington Tops National Park & State Conservation Area, Mt. Royal, Curracabundi, Goulburn River, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks, Camerons Gorge and Ben Halls Gap Nature Reserves, and other reserves across the region.
Techniques used by NPWS include ground and aerial baiting, M44 ejectors and trapping.