Wild about dog issues

Independent candidate for Upper Hunter Lee Watts is supporting calls from local farmers to intensify control measures on increasing local wild dog populations, which are devastating stock.

Mrs Watts said it was hard enough that farmers were shouldering a drought, but to hear their stories about finding so many of their animals barely alive and in pain was heartbreaking.

“Farmers are reporting 20 sheep being taken in one night, dogs hunting in packs with some weighing as much as 30 and 40 kilograms and even calves and foals are falling victim to them,” she said.

“It is happening across the electorate, but people near areas with National Parks seem to be worst hit and it’s an extra strain they just don’t need.

“They are already aerial baiting and ground baiting, but farmers say they need more and the current control plans need to incorporate shooters and trappers to get the best results and start to control the problem.

“The cost of the government hiring a few full-time local shooters and trappers in the Upper Hunter electorate is negligible compared to the financial costs being suffered across the region.

Brian Hunt is an 80-year-old sheep farmer from Murrurundi.

His property has been in the family since 1868.

Mr Hunt admits he’s never seen the problem so bad.

“Throughout my family’s time on the farm, you could count on one hand the number of wild dogs that had been on the place in all that time, but now it is a huge problem that’s spreading to farms where they have never had wild dogs before,” he said.

“I had 20 sheep taken in just one night and the dogs are coming from the [National] Parks.

“The mental affect it has on you when you hear your own dogs in the middle of the night; you sit bolt upright in bed.

“All sheep farmers pay a levy for the grasshopper plague which continues to work well, so a levy for wild dogs might be something to be to look at.”

Mrs Watts said it was essential everyone tackled the problem.

“National Parks need to be doing more, which is often where the difficulty is coming from,” she said.

“The NSW Government needs to pay a few full-time shooters for this area and the industry body needs to listen to calls from farmers to have a wild dog levy.

“Farmers are doing all they can; using alpacas and other animals which they say are good with foxes, but they are no protection from a pack of wild dogs and it’s a worry to think what these dogs are doing to native animals in the parks.”