The government has agreed to trial the sheep farmers’ ‘solution’ to wild dog attacks, which is to drop poison baits across the forested landscape from the air like hundreds and thousands. However, Environment Minister John Thwaites, is showing sensible caution and trialling dummy baits first to test the uptake by other species.
Since banning cows from the Alpine National Park, the government has been trying to make it up to the farmers. This latest poison bait trial looks like a peace offering.
The trials will be in two stages. The first will see a helicopter drop dummy baits with tiny transmitters in to track where the baits end up and what animals have taken them (no further details at time of going to print) . The results will determine the next stage.
Scattering hundreds of baits from the air is a simplistic and slap-dash method of dog control. Baits could land in waterways, trees canopies or be taken by many other species, including the threatened Spot-tailed Quoll. Birds, goannas and bush rats would also eat meat.
Making dogs bait-shy
The effectiveness of poison baits has never been properly tested. In fact what seems like a good idea could be counter-productive. Baits left uneaten over miles of country would lose their potency after some time. Dogs that find these will eat a sub-lethal dose, feel very sick but survive and learn to avoid baits in the future. At least buried baits can be retrieved or refreshed.
Costly to quolls and taxpayers
Even if quolls don’t take any of the dummy baits initially, aerial baiting from the air is very costly. We could be paying dearly for a method that’s not proven to be effective but could help push our native quolls to the brink of extinction.
What’s needed is more understanding of dog pack behaviour to first work out if knocking out a random number of dogs has any impact. Two of Victoria’s original quoll species are now extinct. We don’t want to lose our last surviving marsupial carnivore as a political sacrifice for rural votes.