Beryl Ryan of Boraig Station, Talbingo, has lost all of the lambs she had this season to wild dogs. Five weeks ago she had 17 lambs in her paddock and now she’s got zero, with five being dragged off into the bush on Sunday night alone.
She’s at her wits end, and is calling on the National Parks and Wildlife Service to do more to stop the dogs, who are coming down from the parks and onto properties throughout the Snowy Valleys, with what she says is more confidence and more regularity than ever before.
“We need a full-time trapper and they need to be laying baits,” Ms Ryan said.
“National Parks needs to do more work back into the parks. The [different organisations] fob it off onto each other, but it’s not a Local Land Services problem it’s a National Parks problem.
“We’ve looked at Australia’s constitution and in Australia’s constitution it says no neighbour will interfere with the workings of another neighbour’s property or income, and they are. They’re interfering with our income.
“We only run a handful of sheep here for the simple fact that we can’t. This hill behind us, we could run 500 ewes, on that hill, if the dogs would let us.
“A lamb today can bring in up to 200 bucks for a good lamb. That’s a lot of money that this property could be making that we’ve just lost. Seventeen lambs at $200 each – that’s a big loss. And not only are the wild dogs coming in and eating our sheep but we’ve lost calves in the past. The year before last we lost about 12 calves in one mob of cattle, out of 52.”
Currently, the NPWS is engaged in baiting which involves injecting a piece of meat with the poison 1080. With ground baiting the meat will be buried, which means other animals than the dogs are less likely to get to it, and with aerial baiting the baits are dropped from the sky.
They also employ several contracted trappers, but Ms Ryan said they aren’t getting called on enough to be reliable.
“National Parks and LLS have trappers contracted, but what happens is that right now, our main trapper is out in Oberon somewhere working, because they don’t get enough work to keep them going,” she said.
“A full-time trapper couldn’t survive on what they’re getting from National Parks and LLS. They’re just not getting enough hours, so of course they’re going to source their work somewhere else.
“We absolutely need a full-time trapper.”
Ms Ryan has a scrapbook of sorts, where she’s been keeping track of the meetings she’s attended with agencies, as well as the stock she’s lost and the dogs she’s seen, over the past four years. It’s not an optimistic read.
However, a National Parks spokesperson said that their methods, co-ordinated with other agencies, are working.
“NPWS commits significant resources to undertaking wild dog control in Kosciuszko National Park and other reserves in the region for the purpose of protecting livestock on neighbouring properties,” they said.
“This includes aerial baiting as well as ground baiting, trapping and shooting programs. This integrated approach involving multiple methods, landholders and agencies working together has proved to be the most effective way to manage this landscape-wide issue.
“This year in response to neighbouring farm managers concerns, aerial baiting lines were increased and the baiting locations adjusted. Aerial baiting in the Goobarragandra Dog Plan Area so far appears to be very effective given the dramatic drop in dog numbers since 2016 when aerial baiting was re-introduced. Some areas of dog activity remain and this is where efforts are now being focussed. NPWS is increasing the area and frequency of ground baiting programs to control dogs deeper into Kosciuszko National Park.”
The spokesperson also said that it wasn’t a purely NPWS responsibility, as wild dogs have considerable territories that traverse state forest, private property, and national parks.
“Wild dogs are not confined to a particular area or land tenure, so their management is best approached in a coordinated way across the landscape,” they said.
“NPWS together with neighbouring landholders and the Local Land Services are coordinating efforts to manage wild dogs in the region.”