Table of Contents:
- Wild dog plague crushing livestock industry
- Gruesome thrill-kills
- A bullet to the head or heart brings $500 per dog — but it doesn’t matter, the wild dog hunters can't keep up. Feral dog numbers have reached epidemic proportions, leaving a livestock industry under siege.
Jenny Keogh, who with her husband Rick, runs a 32,000 acre sheep ranch, says, “... the numbers (of dogs) are just so high that it’s like a losing battle. We are being critically affected; they are getting 70 to 80 percent of lambs in some paddocks this year.”
The frenzy of thrill-killing and pack behavior is gruesome, as Rick tells ABC Radio, “They (wild dogs) take great chunks out of their back legs. They just get the sheep, chase it till it drops and then they eat the kidneys out of it and just leave it to die. Some of them take two or three days to die. They’re one of the only animals that doesn’t actually kill its prey, they eat it alive. It’s just distressing to talk about.”
It’s not uncommon for ranchers to find 25-30 wounded sheep that have been ripped apart overnight. The stress of the find, the trauma of putting them down, and the financial hit to the livestock operation combine to leave a deep scar on producers.
The numbers are incredible and continue to climb: Literally millions of Australian sheep have been killed by wild dog packs in just the last few years. It may be a rock against the river effort for self-reliant Australian livestock producers, but a bullet to the head or heart of a wild dog is a livelihood protected — at least in that moment.
Farming cooperatives hire hunters, or doggers, to protect flocks — but the expanses of land are too difficult to properly cover. Don Salway is a well-known dogger, with a vast territory in Queensland. Salway collects $500 ($475 USD) for every wild dog he kills. “I generally sit in the fork of a tree for up to 12 hours. Yeah, it’s a bit uncomfortable, but if it can cut two to three weeks off my stay, I’ll suffer that. When I’m too tired I back off and I’ll just sleep on the ground there and be back in before daylight and into them again, yes. A little while back I got 16 for the night, but I had 12 down by 6:10 in the evening,” he tells ABC Radio.
Doggers like Salway look set to make a lot of money for a very long time.
See below for two videos on wild dogs. The first is a feature on legendary wild dog hunter and eccentric Tom Varney which includes excellent footage of Varney hunting and calling wild dogs. The second is a sobering interview with livestock producer Robert Belcher by ABC's Keva Gocher.