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Peri-urban wild dog tracking project showing interesting results

A collaborative project in the Coffs Harbour peri-urban area is attempting to understand how vertebrate predators use this landscape by attaching tracking collars to wild dogs, feral cats and European red foxes.

The collaboration between North Coast Local Land Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Office of Environment and Heritage, Forestry Corporation of NSW, Coffs Harbour City Council, Gumbaynggirr Green Teams and private landholders has revealed some interesting initial results.

Black wild dog surveillance imageA male wild dog dubbed “Midnight” due its black colouration which was initially caught in Ulidarra National Park west of Coffs Harbour.

Mark Robinson, Land Services Officer with North Coast Local Land Services said “Midnight was caught at the end of March and following about three months in this area the dog started travelling over an extensive area.

Map showing the movements of a wild dogThough the exact route won’t be known until the collar is recovered, the readings so far are showing an interesting route.  Arriving in late June in the range behind Crossmaglen near Coffs Harbour, the dog then moved to Darkwood in the Bellinger catchment, across the Kalang through the Nambucca catchment, to the Macleay catchment past Bellbrook and up into the Carrai wilderness. Last indications are that the dog travelled north through Cathedral Rocks National Park to Guy Fawkes National Park.

Dr Guy Ballard, from NSW Department of Primary Industries, said “Most wild dogs in northeast NSW range over areas between 5000 and 10000ha but a small proportion of the population undertake very large forays and one-way movements in excess of 100km in a week are not unheard of.

“Such large movements should remind all of us that management of wild dogs must be planned and implemented over as large an area as possible and in conjunction with neighbours and neighbouring land.”

Dean Chamberlain, Team Leader Invasive Species notes that the project was designed to better inform wild dog management in the coastal zone and particularly the peri-urban area, where interactions between wild dogs, domestic pets and people seems to be increasing over the past few years.

Dean said, “The most effective approach for managing wild dogs brings together all land managers in a coordinated approach - wild dogs don’t respect human boundaries which is why it’s important for all land managers to work together.”

Dean continued, “Effective wild dog management involves understanding how wild dogs function within a landscape and then using the appropriate control methods.”

“North Coast Local Land Services Biosecurity Officers have been working hard to encourage land managers to work together with the aim of increasing participation in wild dog control programs across the region.

“Over the last three years that effort is starting to see results with more land managers getting involved in group programs, rather than just trying to tackle the problem on their own.

“Overall we now have nearly 200 groups active throughout the year and we are seeing more landholders involved in those groups than ever before – nearly 2000 holdings.

“Many of those groups participated in our autumn campaign that covered nearly 420 properties and 265,000 hectares of land.

“This coverage represents an important shift in our ability to control the wild dog population on the North Coast.” Dean concluded.

Once the initial round of the tracking project is complete it is hoped that the information will lead to increased knowledge of vertebrate pests in the area and how to better manage them to minimise the impacts not only on livestock, but also on native species. The project is supported by North Coast Local Land Services, through funding from the National Landcare Programme and Catchment Action NSW.

Landholders interested in participating in a wild dog group are encouraged to contact their local North Coast Local Land Services Biosecurity Officer to find out how to be involved.

Media contact:

Dean Chamberlain, Team Leader Invasive Species Phone: 0427 458 590

Photo captions:

1. Approximate route of the wild dog dubbed Midnight (base map: Google Earth)
2. A black wild dog, similar to Midnight, that has been captured on remote surveillance cameras.