Insight into wild dog control

Continuing to keep the wild dog problem on the southern Monaro in the spotlight, the Express interviewed Roger Roach a former wild dog trapper with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Paupong/ Numbla area between 2002 and 2008.

While he reluctantly agreed to do the interview, because he has been out of the role for five years, he is still very passionate about the wild dog problems on the Monaro and is positive it can be fixed.

The wild dog meeting at Dalgety recently proposed that more resources are needed to get on top of the current trap-and-bait-shy dog that has been seen on camera.

A motion was passed at the meeting that experienced wild dog trappers like Roger Roach were needed to support the existing trapper to outsmart this clever wild dog.

Here are Roger Roach's insights on the escalating problem of wild dog attacks on sheep in the Paupong/ Numbla Vale area near Dalgety.

You were a wild dog trapper for five years, how did you get into it Roger?

I was sort of dragged into it, an old friend Ted Shorrock was chairman of the Southern Tablelands Dingo Destruction Board (STDDB) for 25 years and John Comans was one of the top trappers for the STDDB.

I used to go with them doing trail baiting and some trapping and was paid by the then PP Board (Pastoral Protection) to slaughter/ butcher old cows and horses for aerial baiting, this was in the 1980s and early 90s.

I worked all over the place, in the Deua and Wadbilliga National Parks, then I went with John Coman trapping in the Delegate area in 2001.

In 2002 I worked full time as a trapper with NPWS in the Paupong /Numbla Vale area.

I also did a small amount of control work in Moonbah, Thredbo, Ingeybra, Byadbo, and Merringrahh NR

What is the country like at Paupong/Numbla Vale?

The country is timbered and scrubby bush which was rough, steep and rocky. The country falls away to the Snowy River and has limited and difficult access.

The grazing country is really good open sheep breeding country, with over probably 60,000 sheep in the Paupong/ Numbla Vale and surrounding area.

What was it like to do dog control in the area?

To start with it was really hard, I didn't know the country. There were three educated dogs that just stepped round all the poison and traps that I put in, and it took about two years to get on top of these problems.

This country is hard on vehicles, hard on trap dogs, and hard on people that work in it.

Fortunately there was a really good wild dog working group and the Co-operative Wild Dog and Fox plan had been recently implemented, so this had NPWS, Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) and farmers all working together.

This was a great step forward in wild dog control giving everybody a voice and solid programs were worked out.

What is meant by a 'buffer zone'?

That is the area the trapper is allowed to control wild dogs in. Outside this area the wild dog is protected and allowed to run free.

What was your most valuable tool you used, traps or poison?

Without doubt it was the trap dogs that I used, they took away a lot of guess work and could do over 20 km a day, day in and day out, they loved it, they were good and tough , and they had to be for this hard country.

What would it be like to be the trapper in this situation at Paupong now?

Well it's hard for everybody, the farmers losing sheep, suffering mentality and financially, cruel on the sheep getting ripped apart and, hard on the trapper, and I feel for the trapper there.

It is "win or lose", there is no middle ground for trappers either, there are sheep in the paddocks or it's destocked.

If there are sheep in the paddock the trapper has won, destocked, the trapper has lost, you can have some sleepless nights wondering how or where you can pick up the harder dogs, when things are not going your way.

What about the dog that has been seen on camera and is killing the sheep at Paupong, how do you think they will catch him?

I don't know the dingo dog so I can't comment, but it's the ruthless sheep killers that trappers fear especially when they keep dodging the traps and keep on killing sheep.

Things can get tough on the mind, this dog is clever and cunning, he would have learnt something somewhere.

What do you mean?

Well this dog may have been twigged by a trap, or seen too many of his mates get caught, who knows, but it would have age on its side.

Every dog can be caught it's just time.

There are thousands of hectares out there and you have to get them to put their foot on a four inch trap plate, it not easy but it's the damage they do before being caught.

The younger new ones that come into the buffer zone are easier to catch but the educated ones, well they're different.

They become ruthless killers and they only stop when they are put down.

They just keep on killing until the paddocks are empty of sheep or the dog is caught.

How many wild dogs did you catch when you worked in the Paupong/Numbla area from 2002 to 2008?

I don't know really, it not about trapping dogs, is about controlling the bush on the fringe of sheep country, 1080 poison plays a big part, but it's back to win or lose for the trapper. It doesn't really matter how the bush gets controlled as long as it gets controlled, and the paddocks are available for stock to graze unharmed.

Do you think Paupong/Numbla Vale farmland can be controlled again?

I think the answer I give will be doubted by some who have destocked sheep now, but I believe that all country can be controlled, it is just what program is worked out by the wild dog working group and adequately resourced.

It would be a shame and a huge loss to have this country destocked because of dingo dogs.

When they catch this dog at Paupong will sheep predation stop?

Hopefully it will, but there are always more dogs coming. While we sleep the dogs are moving, coming in, that doesn't change.

Once you get on top of the problem country, don't back off, if you do you will rue the day.

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