The Wild Dog Problem

We’re in the midst of a ‘dog war’ in our district. Local groups and government agencies are pouring time, effort and resources into scattering poison all over the country. This indiscriminate approach has a lot of potential for collateral damage; poisoned pieces of meat can be picked up by any animal including goannas, quolls and wedge tailed eagles. The success of these programs is measured on the number of dogs killed, not the numbers of sheep saved. And if you happen to have dogs in your area that don’t kill sheep; once they are gone, territory is opened up for dogs that might. For us personally, it also means that our dogs now have to work muzzled, they can’t stop and have a drink when they need to, they have to wait for the muzzle to be taken off and, as no one will will give us a time frame for how long the poison will remain active, this will be the case for months to come.

There have been wild dog problems since sheep first arrived in Australia way back in 1788. And sheep farmers have been trying to exterminate or eliminate them ever since, the dogs that is, not the sheep. An inordinate amount of time and expenses has been spent on dealing with the ‘wild dog problem’ since that time but sheep are still getting killed and mauled. Wild dogs are notoriously hard to catch, trappers sometimes spend weeks chasing an individual dog.

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

And the war on dogs is not working, they’re still around. And always will be; even if we manage to exterminate the dingo there will always be strays and irresponsible dog owners and pig hunters.

Meanwhile, while we’ve been fighting the foul dog scourge – building dingo fences, trapping, shooting and poisoning – we’ve removed the kangaroos’ natural predator. To help them along further we’ve also encouraged grasslands and built dams and (while we obstinately refuse to effectively utilise this protein source) most farming areas have seen an explosion in kangaroo numbers.

Dogs kill sheep because they are easy to kill; much easier than a kangaroo.

Dogs are also highly intelligent, highly trainable animals who pass on what they’ve learnt to their offspring.

Fred Provenza taught some sheep not to eat the monks’ priceless grapevines so they could be of service mowing the lawn. Why can’t we do it with dogs? I’ve always found dogs much easier to train than sheep.

Dogs are going to be around, lets accept that. But what if we taught them that sheep taste bad, even make them sick. They might switch to a diet of kangaroo, teach their pups the new hunting regime and become the ‘wild dog solution’.

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