Fence to fight wild dog scourge

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS -

Fifth-gen­er­a­tion pas­toral­ist Ash­ley Dow­den comes from a proud line of farm­ers to run sheep at the Mid West’s his­toric Challa Sta­tion.

And he is de­ter­mined not to be the last.

The sta­tion was among leases caught up in WA’s fe­ro­cious wild dog scourge, mak­ing sheep a rare com­mod­ity across the State’s range­lands when many pas­toral­ists were forced to de-stock.

“We had our flock dec­i­mated 10 years ago,” Mr Dow­den said.

“When the wild dogs first came into this area, one thing we said to our­selves was ‘We won’t let them turn our sheep into dog food’.”

The Dow­dens now run about 1000 Santa Gertrudis cat­tle at Challa.

The heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to de­stock on the back of the wild dog in­flux has pre­vented Mr Dow­den from flour­ish­ing in Aus­tralia’s record wool prices, trad­ing at more than 2000¢/kg at one point last year.

Al­though the sheep are gone, ev­i­dence of the pest is ev­ery­where, Mr Dow­den says.

How­ever, with de­vel­op­ments on the Murchi­son Re­gional Ver­min Coun­cil’s cell fence — set to sur­round 52 sta­tions and en­com­pass 6.5 mil­lion hectares — mak­ing head­way, Challa Sta­tion is eye­ing a re­turn to its sheep ori­gins. Backed by two State Govern­ment grants to­talling $1.14 mil­lion, Murchi­son and Mid West pas­toral­ists are bank­ing on the fence to safe­guard prop­er­ties from wild dog pop­u­la­tions.

The in­fra­struc­ture builds on the ex­ist­ing State Bar­rier Fence, with the new fund­ing set to erect the re­main­ing 326km to com­plete the 1400km de­vel­op­ment.

A ju­bi­lant Mr Dow­den is hopes it will make a dif­fer­ence.

He hopes to re-en­ter the sheep in­dus­try within three years of the lon­gawaited project’s com­ple­tion.

“We will be in­side the bound­ary, right on the eastern side,” he said.

“The coun­try isn’t suited to cat­tle and our pref­er­ence wasn’t to en­ter into cat­tle, but you have to do what you have to do to sur­vive.”

The mighty MRVC cell will stand in con­junc­tion with the 180km Murchi­son hub cell fence, which is poised to sur­round four pas­toral leases, to strengthen wild dog preven­tion mea­sures.

It will run north via Jinge­marra and Meka sta­tions.

Murchi­son and Mid West pas­toral­ists are also im­ple­ment­ing vast bait­ing regimes to tackle the is­sue.

About 26 tonnes of meat, mainly horse, is be­ing pro­cessed into baits — in­jected with the 1080 toxin — an­nu­ally and dis­trib­uted across Meekatharra, Yal­goo and Cue.

Pro­fes­sional dog­gers have also been en­gaged in the area, pro­vid­ing on-ground pest man­age­ment con­trol.

More than 600km south-east of Challa Sta­tion, Gold­fields pas­toral leases are also fight­ing the wild dog is­sue.

Brendan Jones, owner of Mt Mon­ger Sta­tion about 60km east of Kalgoorlie-Boul­der, elected to di­ver­sify his op­er­a­tion and aban­don sheep for cat­tle be­cause of the wild dog threat.

Mt Mon­ger was once one of the Gold­fields’ pre­mier sheep sta­tions, but now holds about 700 head of cat­tle.

The 950km Kalgoorlie Pas­toral Al­liance’s clus­ter cell de­vel­op­ment will sur­round 11 sta­tions and 2.4 mil­lion hectares of range­lands.

With the KPA cell de­vel­op­ment also pro­vid­ing hope to Kalgoorlie-Boul­der pas­toral­ists, the re­gion’s pre­mier biose­cu­rity group is trum­pet­ing the wool in­dus­try’s re­turn.

Gold­fields Nullar­bor Range­lands Biose­cu­rity As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Michelle Don­ald­son took the reins from vet­eran pas­toral­ist iden­tity Ross Wood on Jan­uary 1. She is con­fi­dent the fence could reignite the area’s once-bur­geon­ing sheep sec­tor.

In prepa­ra­tion for the fence’s com­ple­tion, the GNBRA has been equip­ping sta­tion own­ers across the Gold­fields and Nullar­bor with trap­ping equip­ment since Oc­to­ber.

“There are a lot of dogs around, es­pe­cially younger ones at the mo­ment, so we need to get on top of them be­fore they ma­ture,” Mrs Don­ald­son said.

Pic­ture: Daniel Wilkins

Ross Wood Ash­ley Dow­den comes across a dingo trapped weeks ago. Zach Relph Teen Ryan is a dog­ger from Kalgoorlie-Boul­der lead­ing the charge in erad­i­cat­ing WA of one the most dam­ag­ing pests — the wild dog.

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