National Wild Dog Action Plan proves worth in review

The National Wild Dog Action Plan, Australia’s blueprint for wild dog management, has added significant value to agriculture and communities through increasing confidence, leadership, capability and investment in wild dog control, according to a recent independent review.

Wild dogs are conservatively estimated to cost the Australian economy up to $111 million annually in lost livestock production and control costs with rural and regional economies impacted even further by loss of enterprise choice (sheep and goats become unviable when wild dog numbers are high), reduced employment and business opportunities and increased emotional stress.

Wild dogs also prey on 39 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red Listed Species of threatened Australian fauna and, in overabundance, can significantly impact biodiversity.

National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud said the Plan, implemented in 2014 following industry demand for a national coordinated approach to wild dog management, is the master strategy on which all of Australia’s state, regional and local management plans are based.


“Peak farming groups such as WoolProducers Australia, concerned producers and research scientists saw the benefit of a nationally-recognised strategy that would ensure wild dog management was carried out in the most ethical, humane way, using evidence-based, best practice guidelines and tools that would enable effective, targeted broadscale management that transcended title boundaries and jurisdictions,” he said.

“Today, the Plan is recognised by industry and governments as the primary strategic delivery mechanism.”

Greg said the Plan’s past performance has seen it become a role model for national pest strategies and a pioneer in invasive multiple pest management as highlighted by the Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie in her recent announcement to establish a National Feral Pig Management Coordinator.

“Its key role is to influence policy, attract funding, promote ethical, humane best practice management, and to ensure continued community support for its programs,” he said.

Positive results

Greg said the Victorian Wild Dog Program, an early adopter of the Plan’s principles and strategies, was a great example of its effectiveness.

“During the past five years, there has been up to a 71% reduction in number of sheep killed and maimed across the program and, for some Wild Dog Management Zone groups, stock losses have been almost eliminated,” he said.

“In future we’ll see the Plan play an important role informing and supporting multiple pest management plans as landholders contend with emerging threats from other vertebrate pests.”

The independent review, conducted by Agtrans Research, assessed the overall impacts of the Plan (2014-2019).

Key findings include:

  • The $2.62 million investment made during 2014-2019 returned estimated total benefits of between $15.93 million and $43.30 million.
  • Benefits included more efficient expenditure on wild dog management, more efficient research, development and extension investment, and maintained ongoing community support to undertake control.
  • The Plan contributed significantly to improved leadership and capacity, increased government and industry confidence and increased leverage and investment for wild dog management throughout Australia.
  • A national reporting system for measuring wild dog impacts and the benefits of wild dog management programs should be pursued; and,
  • Improved communications would convey more clearly the Plan’s purpose and activities.

Federal Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shalan Scholfield said the National Wild Dog Action Plan five-year review has shown how effective collaboration can greatly improve outcomes in managing the negative impacts of established pest animals such as wild dogs.

The Plan works in conjunction with the Australian Pest Animal Strategy 2017‑2027 and has established an overarching national wild dog management framework that has guided significant increases in best practice wild dog management across Australia.

The department commends the work done by the National Wild Dog Action Plan and Mr Greg Mifsud as the National Wild Dog Management Coordinator and will continue to work closely with them to develop a new Plan for 2020 and beyond.

Where it began

South Australian wool producer Geoff Power is chair of the National Wild Dog Management Coordination Committee and was one of the grassroots agitators for a National Wild Dog Action Plan.

“Ten years ago we had dogs in every mainland state creating havoc, every state’s control approach was ad hoc and areas that were no longer safe to run sheep were getting bigger,” he said.

“We knew we needed a national approach so with the help of industry groups such as WoolProducers Australia, Federal and state governments and some key individuals, we drafted a plan.

“It took four years but it was exciting moment when it was launched on NSW Monaro Plains.

“Looking at what has evolved, it’s been a great achievement. The Plan is one of the few initiatives that has grown out of industry, that has united industry, government and researchers, in a common cause.

“There’s been a lot of goodwill from all sectors wanting to do the right thing and without the Plan we wouldn’t have all the tools, strategies and coordinated management we have now.”