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Peri-urban canine goes bush

Reported by: Jamie Brown
Sale Date: 16-May-2017
Sale Location: NSW

A RECORD trek by a wild dog has highlighted some of the lessons learnt by a Local Land Services officer and a canid ecologist in a study on the predators. 

Midnight, named for his shiny black coat, with a white belly like the milky way, spent 90 days or half the life of his tracking collar, in the peri-urban forestry west of the city before going on a record exploration.

From the coast he followed the base of the steep escarpment under Dorrigo past Thora and eventually Bellbrook and from there up the Carrai Plateau, and down again, before trekking up the Styx River catchment to the Tablelands where he was trapped on the eastern side of the dingo fence.

From this point Midnight turned north, skirting the Eastern Fall where there is plenty of cover and edge habitat, ignoring carefully laid 1080 bait trails, and at one point traversing 15km in just three hours along rugged gorge country in the upper Nymboida.

He visited a lot of wild World Heritage areas, like Chaelundi where the giant Tallowwood trees grow and down over the Mann River to Gibralter and Washpool, where his collar fell off automatically after 18 months. 

For all his followers know Midnight is still out there, living life on the edge.

He’s just one of the dogs canid ecologist Paul Meek, Coffs Harbour, and Local Land Services officer Mark Robinson have tracked in their research, which has highlighted some of the complexities of trying to manage a wild dog problem.

Mr Meek and Mr Robinson recently presented their findings at a peri-urban information session night at Central Bucca west of Coffs Harbour.

Just three people attended, one a cattle producer, another a wildlife carer and third an equestrian buff. 

The poor attendance partially explains the generally lax attitude towards 1080 baiting in the peri-urban area, which in the western Coffs Harbour district contributes to wild dog procreation.

Obviously wild dogs take some livestock along their way  –  certain individuals do it more than others. 

There is evidence of single dogs pursuing a favourite prey and getting quite clever at their trade.

It’s the same way with dogs who are homebodies and other hounds who just love to go walkabout.

At tremendous expense and effort the team have tracked a number of individuals often retrieving the critical collars, which hold detailed movements, under thick lantana and on steep mountainsides. 

The effort is proving rewarding with data yielding eye-opening results.

One dog, nicknamed Qantas by the daughter of Mr Meek, lived in the mangrove and salt grass swamp beside the city airport, moving to higher ground during times of flash flooding and always hidden by bush.

The random nature of these intelligent animals is proving a management challenge. 

Future research will focus on eating habits and DNA sampling.

  • North Queensland Register
  • Queensland Country Life
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