A decision by authorities to cease aerial dog baiting has left local landholders annoyed and fearing the worst.
Earlier this month the Mid Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) announced the annual wild dog aerial baiting program would not occur as scheduled in May due to costs and a perceived ineffectiveness.
The news was revealed by Mid Coast LHPA general manager Jo McGoldrick in a letter dated March 12.
The aerial baiting program has been effectively operating in the region for more than 40 years covering areas including Stewarts Brook, Woolooma, Moonan Flat, Ellerston, Wybong, Mt Arthur, Timor and Murrurundi.
Carried out by the LHPA, local wild dog associations and individual landholders, the program has worked effectively with other methods of hand baiting, trapping and remote game cameras.
A test of the effectiveness of the program, carried out by the NSW Department of Primary Industries last year in the Armidale region, proved its effectiveness.
Twelve wild dogs were trapped, micro chipped and released before aerial baits were laid in the same area at 40 baits per kilometre.
Eleven of the 12 dogs were found dead and found to have consumed the baits.
Mount Hungerford Wild Dog Association and Ellerston Wild Dog Association representatives have met with the LHPA and other associations to discuss their disappointment, and are continuing to lobby the State Member for Upper Hunter George Souris and Primary Industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson on the issue.
Mount Hungerford Wild Dog Association president Maurice Collison lives in the Stewarts Brook area where he has used aerial baiting to access the rougher inaccessible areas of his property for at least four decades.
Mr Collison said he agrees with the LHPA’s methods of using alternative measures such as trappers, but argues that the aerial baiting is needed as well.
“Aerial baiting is used where it is not feasible to lay baits by ground in the rough and inaccessible terrain and it is in these areas where the wild dogs do their breeding.
“If these areas are not baited we feel we are going to lose what control we have of the wild dog and the population will increase,” he said.
Mr Collison said he was annoyed that the money was in the budget set last year for this year’s May program, and now all of sudden, two months from starting there is not enough money.
“If the money isn’t in the budget, we should have found out last year when it was done.”
Mr Collison said there have been seven dogs destroyed in the Stewarts Brook area in the past six months, and one of them of his property.
“We all realise that we can’t stop the problem, but at least the aerial baiting helps and not one of the associations were in support of stopping the program,” he said.
“Adjoining boards, such as Nundle, are also quite disturbed that we aren’t aerial baiting the adjoining country as it poses greater risk of more dogs to them.”
Mr Collison said people would be forced to go back and bait the rougher areas on horse back or walking, which would take weeks rather than just minutes in a helicopter.
“We hope to be able to bring aerial baiting back in 2013 and we encourage people to help by writing to Ms Hodgkinson.”
In the letter, Ms McGoldrick said if aerial baiting was to go ahead in 2012, other forms of wild dog control throughout the remainder of the year would be severely restricted.
“This decision was not taken lightly by the Mid Coast Authority as we are acutely aware of the damage that wild dogs are continuing to cause in terms of the livelihoods of farmers as well as the associated mental fatigue,” she said.
“To continue to do as we have always done in the past is not considered the answer as populations of wild dogs continue to increase.”
National Parks and Wildlife Service Upper Hunter area manager Dave Brown said the service has always worked in collaboration with the LHPA, wild dog associations and landholders to carry out aerial baiting at the same time as others.
“We will continue to work cooperatively with the LHPA and try any new techniques suggested,” Mr Brown said.
“The LHPA has obviously made the decision based on their own reasons, but we will continue with our program as best as possible.
“We will continue to work together with all parties to try to reduce the incidence of dog strikes.”
Landholders can write to:
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson
NSW Primary Industries Minister