Spring baiting

Aerial spring baiting campaigns – targeting wild dogs – are underway across key, strategic locations around the country. Aimed at reducing the impacts of wild dogs on livestock, these campaigns are meticulously planned, highly coordinated and informed by the latest scientific research.

While there is some public concern about the use of 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) in fresh meat and manufactured baits, be assured it remains the most environmentally safe, target-specific toxin available.

National Wild Dog Action Plan-endorsed wild dog management strategies are evidence-based and numerous research projects by Australia’s leading ecologists have repeatedly demonstrated that wild dog-strength baits have minimal impact on native wildlife. For some vulnerable species, such as quolls, 1080 baiting programs play an important role in their population recovery.

This year, we’re excited to hear that in North-East NSW, where there is a long history of aerial baiting, producers are seeing quolls on their farms and in surrounding bushland for the first time in generations.

Australian Wool Innovation’s wild dog coordinator for North East NSW, Dave Worsley, is a second-generation cattle and sheep producer on the Northern Tablelands. He’s excited to find quolls returning to his farm and hearing similar reports from his neighbours.

“My family has been there since 1968 and we’ve never had quolls until now,” he said. “I’ve even seen quolls on the Severn River and I spent a lot of time as a child roaming that river, fishing in the dark, and never once saw a quoll.

“I’ve also heard Pindari Dam camp grounds have recorded quoll sightings, it’s really exciting, and the other day we had a laugh. A neighbour of mine was having trouble with possums, he thought, turning on his radio in his caravan at night. I lent him a camera trap and it turned out to be a family of quolls.”

For many people not involved with aerial baiting, it can be difficult to understand the complexity and demands of these programs. They are not embarked on lightly. Use of poisons for wild dog management is highly regulated in every Australian state and territory and these programs are carefully coordinated, strategic exercises that involve extensive community consultation and the expertise of trained personnel.

Aerial baiting is only employed in difficult-to-access terrain or in large-scale, rangeland situations where ground baiting is impossible. In Victoria, for example, aerial bait campaigns are limited to a 3km livestock protection zone that provides a buffer between public and private lands and, to provide some perspective, occupies less than 3% of the State’s total public land.

Bait lines are mapped, bait rates are scientifically-determined and bait-drop locations GPS-recorded.

Timing of these campaigns is also restricted and critical to success. In temperate zones, Autumn programs aim to reduce the number of adult dogs likely to breed, while spring programs target winter-born pups emerging as independent adults. In the tropics, aerial baiting is carried out in winter to avoid heat-degradation of baits. The aim of these campaigns is always to responsibly manage wild dog and dingo populations where they impact on agriculture the environment or communities, in accordance with state regulations and community expectations.