Strengthening relationships around best practice wild dog management in NT

The use of FeralScan and WildDogScan in targeted wild dog control programs was the focus of a recent field day for cattle producers in the Northern Territory.

National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud convened the field day on the Heytsbury Cattle Company station, Mt Sanford, managed by Paul and Kate Watts.

The field day in October was attended by 22 people representing 18 stations and indigenous land groups within a radius of several hundred kilometres with Mr Mifsud giving an overview of FeralScan and WildDogScan while professional wild dog controller and National Wild Dog Action Plan Coordination Committee member Adam Bowen gave tips and advice on trapping and baiting. There was also a guest speaker from the Northern Territory Government’s Chemical Services division outlining bait allocation rates.

Mr Mifsud said two stations had signed up to using FeralScan since the field day which had strengthened relationships and networks around best practice landscape wild dog management.

He said the producers had expressed concern around dingoes, wild dogs and their hybrids attacking weaner calves in cattle yards after they had been drafted off the cows. 

“Some producers have used canid pest ejectors (CPEs) around their cattle yards with success. The CPEs give people the opportunity to do wild dog control in places they normally wouldn’t – there have been massive losses in heifer paddocks on some stations of calf losses up to 50-60 per cent, which reduced to 16 per cent after a baiting program,” Mr Mifsud said.

“During my visit a calf was killed by a wild dog and this information was uploaded to FeralScan at the field day in a practical demonstration of the app.”

Paul Watts said producers were concerned at the reduction in bait allocations for land managers by the Northern Territory government, and appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Chemical Services representative. 

Mr and Mrs Watts are among a core group of pastoralists reviving the Victoria River District Conservation Association to create a coordinated wild dog baiting program on a nil-tenure landscape scale. 

“All properties will be baited at the same time in a coordinated effort instead of haphazard,” Mr Watts said.

A pastoral based, not-for-profit land management group, the Association had been in recess for around five years and had previously lobbied for funding to support members in natural resource management, one-on-one and regional conservation projects delivering social, economic and environmental benefits. 

New chairman is Jordan Perry, Birrindudu Station, Kate Watts is secretary, and Alex Laurrison, Killarney, is treasurer while Adam Bowen coordinates the wild dog management program across the Victoria River district.

The VRD region covers 140,000 square kilometres across two bioregions and 17 catchments. 

Mr Watts said the core activities would be weed control, feral animal and wild dog control, including two coordinated baiting programs and onground trapping.

Heytesbury stations will be trialling canid pest ejectors with each station to receive a kit of four.

Mr Watts said bait rate allocations had been significantly reduced resulting in pastoralists having to reapply for elevated bait numbers. 

He said information on dog bites on livestock and wild dog control measures from pastoralists was added to FeralScan contributing to a database used by the Northern Territory government to determine bait allocations. 

“FeralScan has been an important tool for us over the last two years – my boreman and the stock camp staff have the FeralScan app on their phones and log any wild dog activity giving me a good picture of where the dogs are. 

“We target those areas with baiting. We are just keeping the dog numbers in check with Heytesbury recording 582 dog bitten calves and weaners through the yards for 2022. 

“This is baiting with our current elevated bait numbers and one can assume mortalities are at least the same numbers again.

“FeralScan is a fantastic tool for recording this data in live time. 

“There is elevated dog activity coming from neighbouring unbaited lands and some surrounding properties have missed out on baiting rounds for various reasons resulting in large numbers of juvenile dogs. 

“Traditionally we bait in the late May/early June but we may look at running the coordinated baiting rounds a little earlier to improve take-up rates. Baiting has to be coordinated – we’ve got to band together to do it as effectively as we can.”

Mr Watts found the face-to-face networking at the field day highly valuable.

“The main benefit of the field day was knowing, as station managers, we aren’t fighting the wild dogs alone and there are people and groups willing to help.”

For more information on research into the impacts of wild dogs on northern cattle herds click here