WHILE the winter chills were setting in across far East Gippsland last autumn, groups of dedicated landholders were burying baits on their properties to maintain the pressure on wild dogs and foxes.
Sixty-six landholders were involved in the Community Baiting Program, in five areas of Gippsland east of the Snowy River. And while these farmers were baiting their land, Victorian Government agency staff were baiting the adjacent State Forest and National Park land.
The Community Baiting Programs in far East Gippsland are organised by staff from the Southern Ark project, the large-scale fox control program that operates across one million hectares of public land to conserve native wildlife.
“Landholders buried 4,059 baits on their own land while government agency staff buried 2,031 baits on public land,” Southern Ark Operations Manager, Andrew Murray said.
“A total of 1,524 baits were taken by dogs and foxes from private land and 313 baits on public land.
The communities of Deddick-Tubbut-Bonang-Bendoc, Marlo Plains, Bete Bolong-Jarrahmond, Cann Valley and Genoa-Wangarabell were all involved in the program,” Mr Murray said.
“The Community Baiting Programs are an integral part of the Southern Ark project. It’s clear that without private landholders baiting, large populations of foxes would be able to thrive on these big patches of freehold land. To have over 1,800 baits taken during a six week period probably equates to over 400-600 foxes and perhaps several dozen wild dogs.
“While the farmers are carrying out the baiting primarily to protect their stock, the foxes they poison during these programs spend most of their lives eating possums, potoroos, bandicoots and other native wildlife living on private land and the adjacent public land.
“Keeping their numbers down to a bare minimum is good for farmers and good for the wildlife living on the farms and in the nearby bush.
“Graziers in the Bendoc area are still reporting attacks by wild dogs though, with a number of sheep being killed just recently.”
Local farmer Doug Cameron said this is no reflection on the baiting program.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll walk away from the baiting, it means that as a group we have to go in harder,” Mr Cameron said.
The wild dog attacks in Bendoc were highlighted during a recent debrief meeting, and has resulted in the fast-tracking of the commencement of the spring Community Baiting Program.
“We have to respond quickly and positively to the needs of the landholders who are working with us. We have ensured bait orders have been collected and we will deliver these baits to Bendoc this week,” Mr Murray said.
The spring Community Baiting Programs for the other communities will be rolled out over the coming weeks.
Baits for the Deddick-Tubbut-Bonang-Bendoc program are funded by Australian Wool Innovation, and Southern Ark is assisted in this district by DEPI Biosecurity Officer David Krajca and Parks Victoria Ranger David Butterworth.