More than 80 people, representing 30 pastoral stations attended three recent baiting days to work collectively as a community to help combat the problem of wild dogs.
The Meekatharra Regional Biosecurity Association (MRBA), which represents 93 pastoral properties, holds bi-annual wild dog baiting days at seven locations to cover their vast area of 184 000 square kilometres from Turee Creek in the north (Newman), south-west to Yuin (Yalgoo), east to Paroo (Wiluna) and south to Mt Gibson.
Each location has established baiting racks for cutting and drying large quantities of meat, available for stations to gather together to cut, inject and bag the meat which they each take away to distribute on their own properties to help manage wild dogs. Most station owners also undertake their own monthly baiting or bait at least 6’8 weekly to manage wild dog numbers.
Throughout April, Rangelands NRM Regional Landcare Facilitator Mary-Anne (Mez) Clunies-Ross helped out at baiting days at Challa Station east of Mt Magnet, Killara Station near Meekatharra and the Glen near Cue. She said both days were well attended and well organised.
“Traditionally, the Gascoyne-Murchison region has been a major producer of sheep and goats in the southern rangelands, but this small livestock industry has been under serious threat for a number of years from a range of factors including the predation of wild dogs,” Ms Clunies-Ross said.
It is a fantastic effort that producers put in twice a year with these baiting days. Having all hands on deck to process the meat is a huge help, she said.
At Challa we had 40 people representing 10 stations working together. It was great to see three of our local doggers (trappers), as well as Federal Member for Durack, Melissa Price and Federal Senator, Dean Smith participate as well.
Ashley Dowden from Challa station and Chair of the MRBA has been involved in baiting for more than 20 years, first starting at the Windsor racks. He said that the group is now more strategic in how they bait.
“In the past 10 years the group has increased the amount of meat they use and are more selective about where they lay baits on the ground as dog numbers have increased,” he said.
Two tonnes of baiting meat was cut at the Challa baiting day, which would make in excess of 40,000 wild dog baits.
Mr Dowden said dog numbers had increased slowly over the last decade and, while baits don’t kill all dogs, it is an important method to combat the problem of wild dogs.
“Targeting the younger dogs and some older dogs with baits will have a significant impact, but we also have to trap and opportunistically shoot dogs to get on top of this,” he said.
Cathy Jones from Boodgardie Station was a first timer at this event and said baiting days show commitment to control the wild dog situation and build community spirit, especially among the pastoralists who, due to distance and work commitments, don’t gather often.
“Baiting is certainly part of the solution and by working together on these days we are reminded that we are part of a bigger, collective effort to tackle this problem. We feel like what we are doing is worthwhile,” Ms Jones said.
The Killara Station baiting day saw 20 people, representing 11 stations, lending a hand to cut up 1.5 tonnes of meat.
One of Meekatharra’s local dog trappers, as well as representatives from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and Sandfire Resources participated.
Killara Station manager and rack co-ordinator Liam Johns said while he thought the baiting day was productive, new methods are also needed to combat wild dogs.
“This is the most meat we have had at the racks. I think baiting is one of the many solutions to combat wild dogs but we need to find new technology to support this fight,” he said.
At the Glen baiting racks, Rack Coordinator Morrie Sivewright said more than 900kg of meat was processed by 9 local stations.