Dogs stand guard over local sheep
CRAIG CHAPMAN has only lost one sheep to a wild dog attack in the last eight years, and it’s all thanks to his two maremma dogs.
The Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre recently released the Best Practice Manual for the Use of Guardian Dogs due to the success of livestock guardian dogs, like Mr Chapman’s, in deterring wild dog and fox attacks on stock.
Mr Chapman’s maremma livestock dogs live on his Bungawalbin tea tree plantation with his flock of sheep, only interacting with their owner for feeding.
“We have had them for about 15 years and because we are on the edge of a forest, without the dogs we would have no sheep left,” he said.
“They are excellent in keeping the dingoes away. We tried baiting, but it was ineffective, where as the maremmas are about 99 per cent effective. Once the dogs are known to be here the wild dogs don’t come near the property.
“They live like the sheep do, wandering around and lazing about during the day, but they are very protective. We once had a very sick lamb that died and there were eagles circling around above waiting for the right moment.
“The dog picked up the lamb and went and buried it under some mulch. My theory is it did that because it didn’t want to attract more predators.”
On another occasion, one of Mr Chapman’s dogs sat with an injured sheep that had been bitten by a wild dog and licked the sheep’s wound.
But these loyal and farmer-friendly dogs aren’t an easy option.
Livestock guardian dogs can require up to 12 months of training, which involves bonding the dogs with stock and keeping them undomesticated.
Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre national wild dog management facilitator, Greg Mifsud, said there had been a definite increase in wild dog and fox numbers on the Northern Rivers.
“There has been a big move away from primary production farms to lifestyle blocks, and a move away from the number of people who are more familiar with how to control wild animals,” he said.
“People with primary production properties see wild dog control as routine, so now the numbers are not being controlled.
“There are limitations on the use of wild dog solutions like 1080 poison baits, but guardian dogs provide another effective option.”
Earlier this year, The Northern Star reported on residents from The Pocket feeling afraid to walk around their property for fear of being attacked by the packs of wild dogs that had been blamed for killing livestock in the local area.
One young boy was reportedly terrorised by a pack of dingo-cross Alsatian dogs while waiting at a bus stop at Main Arm.