Livestock

Feral dog a frightening size

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: Andrew Costello with the largest wild dog he has seen.
CAUGHT IN THE ACT: Andrew Costello with the largest wild dog he has seen. Contributed

THANES Creek woolgrower Andrew Costello has been shooting and trapping wild dogs for more than 20 years so it takes a bit to rattle him.

But he admitted to being a "little unnerved" when he shot a 41kg wild dog, which had been killing his Merino wethers in a paddock bordering the Gore Highway.

"It is the biggest dog, by a long way, that I have ever shot," he explained.

"She stood 80cm at the shoulder and that's just a scary size.

"She exhibited all the traits of a wild dog: she wasn't friendly towards people, she wasn't hanging around houses, which domesticated dogs tend to do."

The dog was almost double the weight of an average dingo.

Former DPI wild dog researcher Damian Byrne said dingoes usually weighed in around 23kg and tended to be skilled hunters, varying their diet between wildlife and easier options such as sheep.

In comparison wild crossbred dogs tended to favour more defenceless prey such as sheep and goats, Mr Byrne explained.

Meanwhile Mr Costello described the wild dog he killed as "aggressive and fit" making her what he considered to be the "ultimate sheep killing machine".

He said the bitch was believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 20 full wool wethers during the past fortnight.

With the sheep valued at around $80/head plus wool, the tally has a despairing impact on landholders already battling a downturn in both the fine wool and live sheep markets.

Yet the upside of the latest wild dog episode for Mr Costello and fellow wool grower Ian Cullen, who were both involved in the tracking process, was the high level of community co-operation.

Neighbours travelling the Gore Highway first called the Costellos just minutes after seeing a "large, black dog"

crossing the highway near Glendon.

Other reports followed and, with the help of fellow trapper, Mr Cullen, who runs sheep on leased country at Glendon, they were able to establish the dog's pattern.

"Dogs do tend to develop habits and hers was to be out in the paddock killing sheep between dawn and about 7.30am," Mr Costello said.

"We had tracked her from the paddocks back into Duraiki State Forest several times over the past fortnight.

"Yet when we finally shot her, we were very pleased we hadn't had any close encounters with her in the scrub."

Their success came after five early morning starts to scout the paddocks bordering the highway around the Glendon campground turn-off.

"It's fine getting up to stoke the fire when it's freezing, it is a very different thing to be out in it," Mr Costello said.

"But, thanks to things like mobile phones and people's willingness to call in sightings, we were successful this time.

"That doesn't mean we can rest: Trying to stay on top of the wild dog problem means control - trapping, shooting and baiting - is ongoing."

He said landholders in the Thanes Creek and Karara region shot or trapped about 25 dogs already this year.

"Last year I got six dogs in six weeks and that was a particularly terrible time," Mr Costello said.

"I do believe things like the council bounty have had a positive impact on wild dog numbers and anything that helps is a good thing."

Meanwhile he urged landholders to attend workshops like the AgForce organised one at Killarney this week to improve their knowledge and skills of wild dog control.

Topics:  feral animals, livestock, sheep, wild dogs




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