Pest animal numbers soar after rain, as farmers see increased activity

Pest animal numbers soar after rain, as farmers see increased activity

When Neil Baker’s wife, Michelle, looked out the kitchen window at breakfast earlier this year, she spotted something unusual down towards the river flats on the family’s farm, in northern NSW.

Not quite able to make out what it was, she picked up a set of binoculars to get a closer look. What she saw was horrifying. “It was a wild dog, feasting on a ram that we had,” said Baker, a Tweed valley beef and pork farmer who also runs sheep.

A wild dog caught on camera in March.

The attack was one of dozens carried out by dogs and foxes on Baker’s property and on nearby farms in the past few years.

“They’re big, wild dogs,” Baker said. “They’re savage enough to take on cattle. The fact they’re now being seen during daylight shows how brazen they have become.”

Local Land Services, a government agency that helps landowners eradicate feral animals, said this year’s wet weather had led to a large increase in pest animal numbers. So far this year, the agency has culled 22,377 animals through aerial shooting operations, including more than 19,581 pigs. Last year, it culled 33,569 animals in total.

NSW Farmers said its members were also reporting an increase in wild pigs, dogs and cats. Deer were also encroaching on new territory.

A Local Land Services trapper during a pig-trapping operation in the Megalong Valley last year.

A Local Land Services trapper during a pig-trapping operation in the Megalong Valley last year.Credit:Nick Moir

Brewarrina farmer Gerard Glover, who chairs the NSW Farmers Western Division Council, said he was braced for an increase in wild pigs and foxes on his land when the wetter weather, and they were forced further afield for food.

“The numbers are building. When it starts to dry out a little bit… the numbers are certainly there.”

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