Friday, 14 December 2018
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Biting back: The $4M plan to fortify WA’s outback

PASTORALISTS are biting back over WA’s wild dog problem, determined to outsmart — and surround — the “Mexican wave” of killer canines threatening their livelihood.

Murchison locals are making the most of WA Government funding to build impenetrable cells that can both protect their dwindling sheep herds and give cornered dogs no chance to escape.

And with another $4million in WA Wild Dog Action Plan funding heading bush, WA pastoralists are becoming more optimistic about winning a war that has decimated their livestock operations.

The idea is to start small — if there is such a concept in the vast WA rangelands — and expand the “safe” cells after they are cleared of wild dogs.

The Murchison Hub Cell fence, which sits within the boundaries of the far more ambitious Murchison Regional Vermin fence, will, when complete, also allow station country to “breath and recover”, according to Edah station’s Angus Nichols.

With about 180km of fencing to be done, the Hub Cell will eventually cover about 230,000ha across four pastoral leases; Murrum, Edah, Munbinia and Boogardie.

Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan MLC, at Murrum homestead in Mount Magnet.Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan MLC, at Murrum homestead in Mount Magnet.
Camera IconMinister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan MLC, at Murrum homestead in Mount Magnet.Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Mr Nichols, along with pastoralist brothers Henry and John Jones, and Yalgoo and Mt Magnet shire presidents Jo Kanny and Jorgen Jensen, briefed Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan on Tuesday. “These areas have been constantly grazed — anything that’s green gets eaten immediately, and nothing gets a chance to flower,” he said. “We can isolate an area. We need to stop continuous grazing. We can then control the dogs, then the goats, the roos; we can get everything out of there.”

The Joneses have been connected with Boogardie since the 1880s and bought Murrum 12 years ago. Henry has seen a “Mexican Wave” of dogs come in from WA’s desert country when the Agricultural Protection Board closed a decade ago.

Henry, who grew up on Boogardie “when I wasn’t somewhere else”, said back in the day there was a “significant bounty system, you could buy your strychnine at the corner shop”.

“We had about 10,000 sheep on average most years, but with the dogs, you just can’t raise your lambs, and that’s where they get you. We now run about 3000.”

Mt Magnet Shire president and third-generation pastoralist Jorgen Jensen said that while the country was not suited to cattle, pastoralists were “trying to do it on a smaller scale.”

“As far as the changing dynamic, there are only three stations in the Magnet Shire that still have sheep, but they are only in very small numbers, and very few goats left, all for the same reason,” he said.

“The fence is only the first step — there’s two fights to be had here — you’ve got to get the fence up, then have enough money on the ground to pay doggers to clean up the dogs inside the fence.”

This week there were signs of improvement.

As the ministerial convoy drove along a completed section of the Hub fence, some unexpected but very welcome visitors appeared next to the gleaming wire fence; a bush turkey and its chick.

“We haven’t seen those for a fair while,” Mr Nichols said.

“Usually the dogs have made sure of that.”


The Bark Box

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