News

A flooded bridge, one goat and six wild dogs

James Nason, 02/03/2012

If further evidence was needed of just how serious the wild dog problem in inland Australia has become, pictures like this provide it.

This photograph was taken during the recent floods near Tambo in central western Queensland, and has been doing the rural email rounds ever since.

A message that arrived with the picture tells the story:

“The goat was standing on the Nive River bridge which had water lapping it when council staff went out to check. They thought it was a traffic hazard and chased it off.

“Rather than running back down the road, it jumped in the water – and you can see what was waiting for it on the other side.”

If you click on the image at the bottom of this page and zoom in, you will count six yellow dogs, taking a very keen interest in the goat’s movements.

The picture was taken by Blackall Tambo council foreman Darren Webb on Drensmaine Station near Tambo, where Helen and Len Sargood run a well-known Santa Gertrudis Stud.

While some cattle producers dismiss wild dogs as a problem only for sheep producers, the Sargood’s experience tells a very different story.

“They’re shocking here,” Mrs Sargood said when Beef Central spoke to her last night.

“They take calves every year here.

“We juggle and try to keep the stud cows and calves pretty close to the house, but when we had all that rain and wet weather (late last year), we couldn’t get out to the paddocks, and in that time the dogs really made a mess of the calves.

“They took a lot. It was like a dinner table for them.

“We had a fair few bitten calves as well, and they take so long to heal up because the infection is so bad.”

Mrs Sargood said the damage caused to calves was extremely upsetting, but landholders were losing the fight to control the predators largely because of a lack of unified control efforts.

The Blackall-Tambo council had recently cut its bounty payment from $100 per dog to $30, which had reduced the incentive for local shooters to shoot problem dogs.

The numbers tell the story of the threat wild dogs pose. Last year local dog caller and shooter Tony Townsend spent 10 days on Drensmaine and picked up nine dogs. Seven of them were females, carrying 21 pups.

The Sargoods themselves have shot or trapped about 14 dogs on Drensmaine in the past few months.

She said other landholders had also had success calling in helicopters to shoot wild dogs from the air when they spotted large numbers in a group.

Convincing some cattle producers to join coordinated approaches to dog management was a key challenge, she said.

“Unless you are watching closely, you would just think that those cows were dry (when they came in without calves), but we know cows that have had calves on them, and then the next time we go out there they haven’t got them.

“We have a small line with cattle, everyone counts, but for the bigger people who have got a lot of cattle, they don’t tend to notice losses like that.”

While the picture looked to be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for the billy goat involved, Mrs Sargood said the buck had obviously managed to avoid the dog’s attentions after the picture was taken because he was still moving with mob of goats that lives around the Nive River bridge this week.

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