‘We’re being driven off our farms’

‘We’re being driven off our farms’

One of the many sheep Brindabella farmer Noeline Franklin has lost to wild dogs

Another Tumut-area farmer has spoken up against the inaction of authorities to do something about the wild dogs wreaking havoc against stock, landholders, and native animals in the region.

Noeline Franklin has only 30 lambs left from 140 ewes this season. She fears for their survival in the face of year-round dog attacks, along with the adult sheep and calves the packs are now confident bringing down.

Over the past decades she’s seen sightings of wild native animals diminish in Brindabella, where her property Tin-ut is located, and her voice shakes as she tries to convey the magnitude of the wild dog problem for those living on the land.

“It’s traumatic,” she said.

“A lot of the neighbours won’t let their kids go out onto their property anymore. We’re finding our sheep skinned, with their organs out, some still alive – stuff that’s too graphic to print, and yet we’re dealing with it all the time. The dogs are killing for the fun of it, it’s ongoing chaos.

“When you’re dog affected, it affects your entire life.”

The wild dogs come onto private property from National Parks and State Forests. Ms Franklin estimates that the total loss in productivity in the worst dog-affected areas – Brindabella, Wee Jasper, Talbingo, Gilmore, and Goobarragandra – is upwards of $9 million a year.

She arrived at that figure through a combination of lost stock; time and money spent by farmers fighting dogs that could be spent elsewhere; and the loss on otherwise plum land that isn’t being fully utilised by farmers due to the dogs.

According to her calculations, there is the potential for 60,000 sheep to be run in areas around Tumut that are currently the playground of wild dogs.

“State Forest, National Parks, and Local Land Services as well I’m afraid to say, are oblivious to our plight,” she said.

“They just look at you with these patronising little smiles. It’s always, ‘It’s terribly sad but we don’t have the funding.’”

“I don’t have much sympathy for that argument. It’s their responsibility under the Pest Control Order, and they’re public land – we still have to pay our rates and somehow remain viable, even though we’re losing all our stock to the wild dogs that are their responsibility to manage. Our neighbours have had 60 adult sheep killed since just before Christmas!”

Ms Franklin is also scathing of National Parks statistics that show the number of reported kills going down this year. She believes there have been less reports because landowners, overwhelmed by the dogs, have simply given up trying to run sheep.

“It’s an insidious cost, it’s not just the sheep killed it’s those that are no longer there to kill,” she said.

“They say it’s getting better but the fact is, it’s getting worse. They’ll only do something once the kill has already happened, and by then it’s too late.”

Ms Franklin is a second-generation farmer, and her own family moved after their original property was decommissioned in 1986 due to unmanageable wild dogs. As the now-owner of the property, she initiated the 2002 Brindabella and Wee Jasper Valleys Cooperative Wild Dog/Fox Control Plan Working Group, who developed a strategy that she believes was working.

The strategy involved 62 bait stations with buried ground baits that were monitored regularly, along with one full time and one part time trapper. However, the plan has not been continuously funded.

One trapper was let go in 2008, and their current one is flat-out and overworked, she said.

“We’re being driven off our farms, and it’ll be a carve-up between National Parks and State Forest as to who gets what,” she said.

“We had the solution. It’s expensive, but if we leave it any longer it’ll be too late. We need to have a conversation in NSW and decide if we want to have a dingo dictatorship like they have in Queensland.”

She echoes Talbingo’s Beryl Ryan and Goobarragandra’s Lindsay Buckley when she says the most important element of an effective wild dog strategy are trappers. They may be expensive, but they are cheaper in the long-term.

“Trappers are vitally important in that they understand dog behaviour,” she said.

“Once you get them on the ground, then you can look at ground baiting and aerial baiting, but you absolutely need good people who know what they’re doing and are trusted by the community first.

“We’re paying the subsidy out here for poor public land policy, put down by people in Sydney who have no idea about local circumstances.”