Cross jurisdictional collaboration on aerial baiting for conservation outcomes

Last month marked the first time wild dog baits have been substituted for fox baits in Bounceback, a flagship program working to achieve conservation outcomes in South Australia’s north.

The first collaborative landscape-scale wild dog program between the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) and Bounceback, a Department for Environment and Water (DEW) initiative, was delivered in South Australia in December 2022.

The SA State Wild Dog Coordinator Heather Miller said PIRSA supplied Bounceback with 15,000 wild dog baits. They replaced the fox baits normally used in their central and northern Flinders Ranges aerial baiting programs which covered National Parks and nine surrounding pastoral leases.

DEW’s Bounceback Project Officer Geoff Axford welcomed the collaboration between the organisations as it provided efficiencies for their program and controlled both wild dogs and foxes at a lower cost. 

“The Bounceback program deploys five baits per kilometre of flight path and the transects are one kilometre apart. In all, wild dog strength baits were delivered to over 300,000 hectares,” Mr Axford said.

“DEW and PIRSA also collaborate on the DEW Bounceback bait making facilities with both organisations contributing to facility upgrades for the preparation of the semi-dried baits using beef, feral horse and camel meat at Oraparinna.”

It is the first time wild dog baits have been substituted for fox baits in this flagship program delivered by DEW for three decades. 

“PIRSA and SA Arid Lands Landscape Board (SAAL) have collaborated for many years on wild dog management through their wild dog Biteback program but this is the first time PIRSA has worked with DEW Bounceback progam to support them to replace their fox baits with wild dog baits as part of their twice annual aerial control program, which is focused on conservation outcomes,” Heather Miller said.

“Thanks to funding from the State and Commonwealth governments, we delivered this first trial in the central and northern Flinders Ranges and we aim to progress into other areas of the Bounceback program.”

SA Arid Lands Team Leader, Landscape Operations and Projects Greg Patrick said with the landscape-level controls carried out under the SAAL Board’s Biteback and the DEW Bounceback programs, landholders were reporting greater diversity and reduced fox and wild dog numbers on their properties. 

“SA Arid Lands Landscape Board (SAAL) is working with National Parks and Wildlife Service through a Bounceback and Beyond project, which is an extension of Bounceback,” Mr Patrick said.

“The initiative links private and public land managers to work together to support the reintroduction of threatened species such as western quolls, and brush tailed possums.

“Project activities focus on reducing feral goat, fox and rabbit numbers which helps regenerate native vegetation and habitat for threatened species.

“SAAL’s wild dog control program Biteback also provides significant benefits by reducing predators in the landscape, enabling the native species to be reintroduced to national parks.”

The Bounceback and Beyond program aims to reduce the impacts of foxes, rabbits and feral goats across the landscape for wildlife and livestock, and to improve the conservation status of a range of native flora and fauna species.

Greg Patrick said that despite wild dog numbers being at an historic low since 2009, Biteback was working with landholders to continue to participate in ongoing ground baiting. 

He welcomed the initiative between PIRSA and DEW to aerial bait with wild dog strength baits to manage both wild dogs and foxes impacting the threatened species. 

“It is the first time in 30 years that wild dog baits have been used in the place of fox baits in a conservation-based program in South Australia,” Mr Patrick said. 

“Where people have been consistently baiting for their wild dogs, they are rarely seeing foxes, and there has been an increase in biodiversity.

“The Biteback program is also working with PIRSA on three wild dog aerial baiting programs planned for February, March and May 2023 targeting inaccessible areas and those areas where wild dog activity is being reported from the NSW Border to Coober Pedy.”

Read a case study on Bounceback here.