AN ALARMING increase in the number of wild dogs has become a major economic and animal welfare issue for the Northern Territory cattle industry.
An estimated 60,000 calves and young weaners were killed directly or were maimed and died of secondary wounds and infection after dog attacks during 2011-2012 at a cost of $80 million, statistics reveal.
And with the growing threat concerns about human health and safety issues have been raised, following recent reports of dog attacks on people camping in Territory national parks.
President of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, David Warriner said apart from the economic loss, the wild dog attacks caused unacceptable animal suffering and loss and were a major animal welfare issue.
“The wounds to the animals by wild dog attacks are quite shocking, and calves and weaners are dying painful deaths,” Mr Warriner said.
“We are also very concerned that the unacceptably high numbers of wild dogs presents a significant bio security risk and threat to wildlife and bio diversity.
“Were the unthinkable to occur and rabies were to travel from the Indonesian archipelago through PGN and the Torres Strait to Australia, the naturalised wild dog population would make eradication near on impossible.”
Mr Warriner said the attacks on campers in the Kakadu National Park were particularly concerning and were a consequence of the lack of resolution on how to control wild dog numbers in national parks.
The increase in dog attacks is the result of major changes to the baiting arrangements for wild dogs, which have occurred over the past three years, and have made the process cumbersome and unwieldy.
Mr Warriner said that as a result there has been a major reduction in baiting and what appears to be a commensurate increase in wild dog numbers, resulting in skyrocketing calf losses.
“The Government appears to have no interest in supporting effective control of wild dogs, and is making the process so unwieldy and uncoordinated that it is promoting the proliferation of these animals.
“It has done nothing other than to stymie what was a good control method still being used in other states” Mr Warriner said.
“Currently dog bating is the responsibility of individual landowners, who have to deal with two separate government departments, each with its own sets of paperwork and red tape.
“It is frustrating for landowners that the separate approvals are not aligned in terms of the period; regulations around using poison require permits which last for two years, while permits relating to baiting activity are valid for three months.
“Processing delays mean permits are often close to expiry by the time they are received or programs can commence.”
Late last years residents of rural areas around Katherine rallied to raise awareness for the threat opposed to their stock by wild dogs.
Former Mayor of Katherine, Jim Forscutt, said the situation had worsened since baiting arrangement had been changed with the introduction of the super shires.
“They (the wild dogs) are out there, they breed with dingoes and they have become a real worry,” Mr Forscutt said.
Wild dogs are known to attack calves and weaners in the region and many cattlemen recorded significant losses of stock in the last few years.
“It’s horrible what they do with your animals,” Mr Forscutt said.