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Australia - Wild dogs of the high country take toll on sheep in northern Victoria

Wild dog attacks near Benalla, in Victoria’s north-east, are taking a serious toll on livestock numbers, according to a local wool producer.

Terry Ring is forking out thousands of dollars for electric dog-proof fencing, to put an end to the upward trend of maulings in his area.

Mr Ring has counted seven attacks on his flock in the past year, the most frequent since moving to his Upper Ryans Creek property 33 years ago.

He said his sheep were showing signs of stress, as were farmers from nearby Mansfield, Chestnut and King Valley in Victoria.

“I think one fact that’s overlooked is the stress put on the primary producer, both the individual and the family,” Mr Ring said.

“It’s an ongoing thing and it’s a combination of things.

“It’s a combination of financial loss, loss of time, and the stress it has on the entire family.

“There is the constant problem of checking [the flock], and then either the death of these sheep eventually, or the long-term interference and poor wellbeing of stock because of the stress they’re under when they’re fully aware of the presence of dogs in the area.

“There’s certainly other farmers right up to Mansfield and in the Cheshunt and King Valley regions who have far greater attacks than what we’re having here.”

‘System isn’t working’

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) estimates wild dogs cost the Victorian livestock industry $13-$18 million per year, impacting productivity and animal welfare.

The department dispatches trained dog controllers to threatened properties, but from Mr Ring’s experience, the system is not working.

“Unfortunately they’re understaffed and at times they’re taken away from their own zone to alleviate problems in another zone,” Mr Ring said.

“This is definitely not working.

“On one occasion we had three different controllers within a week trying to solve the problem.

“They’re all good men, all doing great jobs, but you need your local controller who knows your property best to be the one on the job doing it.”

Feral deer, ‘roos could be driving dog numbers up

Mr Ring has “strong memories” of an attack about 30 years ago where he lost 170 sheep.

But the past year has been worse, he said, and he thinks an explosion of kangaroo and deer numbers is to blame.

“Since Easter of 2017 we have seen the worst period on our property of dog attacks,” he said.

“Maybe the wild dogs have bred up and when the pups get to approximately 12 months old the mum kicks them out of the pack and they’re wandering around the area for a while before they establish
their own pack to go on with.

“With the good year last year there’s a lot of kangaroos and deer around and that could be bringing in the dogs as well.”

Mr Ring has plans to install electric dog-proof fencing, but as his property borders undulating state forest on three sides, he said it was almost impossible to secure his entire farm.

He will also continue with surveillance and trapping measures.

Speaking in parliament this month, local Member for Euroa Steph Ryan urged the Victorian government to take immediate action on wild dogs.

“Attacks from wild dogs are putting livestock and farmers’ livelihoods under threat across north east Victoria and many farmers are concerned about the growing number of wild dogs they’re seeing,” Ms Ryan said.

Ms Ryan argued there was too much “red tape” surrounding trapping methods and animal welfare constraints.

She said the State Government was “dismantling successful control measures to appease Green voters in Melbourne”.

“Daniel Andrews scrapped the wild dog bounty and has recently banned wild dog controllers from using larger dog control traps,” she said.

“Instead of hampering wild dog control, the Andrews Government needs to provide more support.”

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