Bounty Hunters Rorting System: Mifsud

Greg Mifsud, national wild dog facilitator with the Invasive Animals Co-operative Reserach Centre, has taken aim at wild dog and fox bounty systems around the country, saying that they actually reduce the effectiveness of other control programs. Mifsud also said that bounties provided opportunities for hunters to rort the systems, and accused hunters of leaving some wild dog populations intact with a view to returning “time and time again” to harvest more dogs.

According to a report published in The Land and written by Cara Jeffery, wild dog bounties of up to $100 a scalp have bred a what Mifsud called a “dead dog mentality”, reducing the effectiveness of feral control programs.

Mr Mifsud said some people were more fixated on dead dogs and scalps, and had overlooked more cost effective control tools such as 1080 baiting programs.

“We have seen in some places people so fixated on getting a dead dog they would rather pay a trapper $500 to get a dead dog rather than put out a $1.20 piece of meat with 1080 bait in it that could achieve the same outcomes,” he said.

Mr Mifsud said bounties were only effective when they were included in an integrated wild dog control program.

“We call it a cricket score mentality: people get fixated on how many dogs they have killed rather than looking at how many sheep (or stock) they are losing,” he said.

“Wild dog management should be about preventing impact and reducing stock loss, not about how many dogs get killed.”

Mr Mifsud said bounties also promoted ‘harvesting’ of wild dogs in some instances.

“If people know they can go back time and time again and get a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of dogs, then why would they clean them all up?” he said.

“Unfortunately human nature is that way inclined, and bounties offer opportunities for people to rort systems.”

Mr Mifsud said that several shires in Queensland had capped their wild dog scalp payments at $30 as too many people were taking dogs to the shires that offered $100 bounties, rather than taking them to the shire where they were collected if the bounty was less.

He said people needed to move past the misapprehension that if there was no wild dog carcass, then their baiting program must be ineffective.

“Just because you don’t find a dog carcass after baiting doesn’t mean that baits don’t work. It can take between seven to 10 hours for a wild dog to die from 1080 and the animal could be far away by that stage.

“If the attacks on your sheep cease after the baiting program, then who cares if you don’t find a carcass of a dead dog?”

He said the IACRC had seen cases where just one dog had been responsible for killing a lot of stock, and controlling those problem dogs took a lot of time and effort.

“The bounty money should be spent on employing professional wild dog controllers to manage the dogs that have eluded other forms of control. Shooting may play a part in assisting with this process provided it is used in conjunction with the other tools.

“A lot of the dogs that we are paying all this money in bounties for are mostly young dogs – naive dogs – that would easily also take a 1080 bait which cost far less than what we are paying in bounties in some parts of the country.”

Mr Mifsud said in some regions bounties had in fact set back wild dog control programs.

“I am not a big fan of open slather bounties, I don’t think they work – purely because everyone is waiting for someone else to go and shoot the dogs for them, rather than taking a proactive approach to baiting and trapping themselves,” he said.

He also said bounties could be disruptive to ongoing management programs and work that was already being conducted by wild dog controllers.

“A wild dog controller or trapper can spend a lot of time working out the movements and behaviour of problem dogs, (then) all of a sudden someone comes in and tries to shoot the dogs and it scatters them, which derails a month’s worth of a trapper’s work.

“Open slather bounties with people running across the countryside in an unco-ordinated and non-strategic fashion just to shoot dogs at random isn’t going to stop stock losses, particularly if it’s in the absence of any other control.”

Because of the breakdown in control programs in the past, there were now wild dogs popping up in areas where they hadn’t been for a century, Mr Mifsud said.

Wild dogs were now killing stock north of Tamworth in NSW and are appearing in numbers around Clare only 1.5 hours from Adelaide in South Australia, he said, and dog numbers were also increasing in urban areas.

“Dogs are infiltrating peri-urban areas now. As regions which once supported dairy and beef farms are subdivided they become quite attractive to wild dogs as they provide a smorgasbord of food ranging from domestic pets to dog food, and given dense populations they prove difficult to manage using conventional control.

“Wild dogs are just like foxes – they adapt and change their behaviours and fit right in, the Invasive Animals CRC identified this issue some time ago and have a research project looking at wild dog ecology and control options in these difficult built up areas,” he said.

The IACRC was working on a range of new products to add to the current techniques used for wild dog management. Mr Mifsud said these new products may be far more attractive to producers concerned about participating in 1080 baiting programs due to concern about poisoning working dogs.

However, Mr Mifsud said there were ways to limit the risk to working dogs from poison baits, such as burying and tying them at known locations so they could be checked regularly and picked up prior to mustering.

He said the safest way to ensure working dogs were protected from accidental poisoning was to obey the current state regulations for use of 1080 and put muzzles on working dogs when mustering in paddocks where baiting has occurred.

“Getting dogs used to wearing muzzles from an early age and keeping them muzzled when working stock in paddock is the best safeguard against accidental poisoning. It’s a fine line for a sheep producer who is losing stock (and his income) to wild dogs and but is concerned about using baits because he fears for his beloved working dog.”

Mr Mifsud praised programs like Farmer Assist introduced by Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) earlier this year. That program, now fully operational in Queensland, connects farmers battling pest and feral animal problems with accredited SSAA members to provide support for pest animal management as part of a co-ordinated program.

SSAA Farmer Assist co-ordinator, Matthew Godson, said there had been a steady uptake of the program since it was rolled out in Queensland earlier this year, helped by a partnership with AgForce Queensland to promote it to landholders.

Mr Godson said the program would be available to Tasmania, Western Australian and South Australian landholders in the New Year.

“The Farmer Assist program is another tool in the tool box for landholders to manage wild dogs along with control measures such as baiting and trapping,” he said.

Ultimately, Mr Mifsud said an integrated, targeted and co-operative approach to wild dog control was required.

“Let’s concentrate on best practice management techniques delivered in an integrated fashion.

“The tools are there to manage the issues, we just need to get everyone working together to deliver co-ordinated community baiting programs which are supported by trapping and other techniques such as shooting.

“Then we can reduce stock losses and manage wild dog impacts on livestock and native species,” he said.

The Victorian Coalition government have flaunted their spending on wild dog and fox bounties in the lead up to the State election next month.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh confirmed that a re-elected Coalition would commit $4 million to continue the $100 per wild dog and $10 per fox scalp, as well as an additional $4 million available for targeted aerial baiting activities over four years.

Mr Walsh claimed since 2011 there had been 1200 pelts handed in at a cost to government of $131,290.









Like it? Share with your friends!

What's Your Reaction?

super super
fail fail
fun fun
bad bad
hate hate
lol lol
love love
omg omg