Wild dog numbers across northeast NSW are ‘out of control’ as many locals feel authorities are struggling to contain the problem. Official warnings remain in place despite the extermination of wild dogs, suspected of being responsible for a string of recent attacks and incidents in the Tweed Coast area. Residents and holidaymakers have been warned to remain vigilant as the closed-off areas around the Cudgen Nature Reserve and Casuarina will now be reopened for the Easter Weekend.
But is it really safe to go back into the water, um, we mean dunes and tracks? With scenes reminiscent of the famous 1975 Spielberg film JAWS, Tweed region authorities have this past week raced to catch and kill the last of three rogue wild dogs in order to make the local beaches safe again before the Easter holiday long weekend commences this Friday. But the three that were caught seem to be just the tip of the iceberg, with reports of many more hunting packs roaming throughout the Tweed region.
Late yesterday Tweed Shire Council announced the last of three killer dogs had finally been caught and culled from the Cudgen Nature Reserve area where a hunting pack has been menacing beach and dune users for many months. The same pack was also thought to have fatally attacked a pet dog at Casuarina. For the past week, a large slice of the reserve and beachfront was a council decreed no-go zone until the last remaining suspect dog was finally killed.
Public spaces along dunes, beachfronts, walking and cycling tracks as well as bushland between Cudgen Creek and Cabarita had been officially closed since Monday March 30th as armed rangers converged in an attempt to flush out the feral dog. Its two counterparts had already been trapped over the course of the last week.
Despite yesterday’s confirmation the wild trio was now dealt with, Tweed Shire Council’s Director of Community and Natural Resources, Tracey Stinson, cautioned residents to remain vigilant. Ms Stinson said Council signs advising people of the risks would remain in place.
“The capture of the three wild dogs is a great outcome which has come about because of the cooperation between Council, NPWS and LLS … however, residents and visitors to Salt, Casuarina and Cabarita Beach are asked to exercise ongoing caution.”
HAD A WILD DOG ENCOUNTER? TELL US ABOUT IT IN THE COMMENT SECTION AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE
She said a continued cooperative response by Council, NPWS and North Coast LLS would take a more proactive approach to manage wild dogs in the area. However, responsible resident behaviour was vital to the program’s success.
“For example, it is important that domestic dogs are not taken into Cudgen Nature Reserve and are kept on leashes whenever they are outside your property,” she said.
Despite the official warnings, some residents had continued using the area, risking fines and their own safety by ignoring the signage and enforceable ban – one mother was even spotted pushing a pram through the area, yet also admitted she had seen the council signs. The same dog pack was believed to have recently menaced bushwalkers and beachgoers – in February they reportedly stalked and ‘hunted’ a 78-year-old Cabarita woman on the beach and into the surf; in March a pack killed a loved family pet near a popular walking track at Casuarina.
“They’ve attacked a dog, they could attack people” – Tweed Council’s director of natural resources Tracey Stinson
But is the last-minute extermination of one dog pack simply patching the external symptoms of a larger problem when it comes to wild dog control? What still lurks beyond the Cudgen hills?
A much greater problem that’s growing fast
LiQUiFY decided to dig a little deeper and find out if there is any genuine cause for concern, if these attacks are only isolated incidents, or if there is perhaps a far more serious underlying problem with wild dogs in the region. What we uncovered was an alarming, long-running and rapidly escalating population of wild dog packs across the state’s north coast, the border ranges and coastal strips.
In 2009 the NSW Government mapped the state, listing much of the Tweed Coast, including Casuarina to Pottsville as totally void of wild dogs – they labelled the dogs as ‘absent’ from the region back then, but today a completely different situation has developed – a situation that may have been there all along like a ticking time bomb.
The further we delved it became quite clear that there has been an expanding problem extending the entire eastern ranges of the Australian continent with dozens and dozens of serious reports from Canberra through to well inside Queensland’s hinterland regions. Indeed the Tweed to Lismore area appears to be the centric hotspot for wild dog hunting packs and the numbers of serious encounters and incidents involving people seems to be growing at an arguably alarming rate. Perhaps the most frightening thing to note was the increase of activity and incidents in and around more urban environments, away from farmlands and bush but closer to homes and communities.
Just what are these wild dogs? Over the years there has been a wide range of reports describing everything from large black animals through to almost pure-looking dingo breeds. From reading through the many reports we have gathered there has been a growing predominance of what is described as a part dingo and part Alsatian-looking breed beginning to dominate the landscape, which seems to possess some of the wild nature and survival skills of the semi-native dingo but the larger mass and much bolder persona of the Alsation – with almost all encounters describing a strong element of aggression and viciousness.
Many environmentalists and sympathisers have argued that the dogs are actually dingoes and as such, are deserved of far greater protections. According to the NSW government, the dingo may be considered for listing as a threatened species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) as it was established in NSW prior to European settlement. Nominations to list the dingo as a threatened species and to list specific populations of the dingo under the TSC Act have been received by the NSW Scientific Committee, but no determinations have been made to date. However, ‘Predation and hybridisation by feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)’ has been listed as a key threatening process under the Act.
Introduced wild dogs in NSW are declared a pest under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998.
Expert reports widely concur that the prevalence of native Australian dingo DNA is disappearing in this region and that in northeastern NSW a newer mixed breed of wild dog is emerging, with very little, if any, dingo DNA remaining. Actual dingo purity in the region is believed to be very low. Dingoes themselves are also believed to be an introduced species that arrived from Asia approximately 4000 to 5000 years ago, and may have even had a hand in some of the critical extinctions (such as the Thylacine and the Tasmanian Devil from mainland Australia) our continent has witnessed since their arrival.
It has also been reportedly noted by rangers that these newer hybrid breeds are now reproducing at an alarming rate. Dingoes traditionally only bear offspring once a year, with a litter of just two pups being the norm. Mixed breeding of large introduced wild dogs has fostered an environment where the animals can produce much larger litters and can even do so twice a year – making the task of eliminating or even controlling populations a much more monumental undertaking.
“keep your children at arms length … and carry a whopping big stick” – LiQUiFY Magazine
The isolated reports dating back many years can be strung together to form a broader view of the issue and as we discovered, it’s very broad indeed. Below is a timeline of recent reports and incidents that we were able to piece together from Google in a very short time, although we feel from our limited investigations that there are potentially many more reported encounters than this, and far more unreported incidents that have likely occurred.
Northeast NSW Coast Wild Dog Incident Timeline
FEB 13th 2014 – Landowners In Region Report Upsurge Of Dogs
Tweed Valley Weekly reported ‘Landowners in the Tweed are dealing with an upsurge in attacks by wild dogs’
Bilambil farmer John Widgery said he had seen the packs on his property during daylight hours.
“The problem is getting to be worse than it has ever been before,” Mr Widgery told the Tweed Valley Weekly
“I have heard that part of the problem is they have run out of food in the inland area so they are coming closer to inhabited areas where they wouldn’t normally be.”
Another farmer in the area, Simon Barlow told the paper, “The current pack has obviously cross bred with an Alsatian somewhere along the line and they are now bigger and more aggressive. A neighbour of mine had two goats which were kept basically as pets and when the dogs were done with them, all that was left was the stomach, ribcage and hide.
“Another neighbour who walks her little dog along Hogan’s Road has been confronted twice by the pack while on her walk, most recently just a few weeks ago,” he said.
Dean Chamberlain from NSW Local Land Services told the paper, “Dog packs can roam over an area of up to 50 square kilometres which gives you an idea of the problem.”
FEB 17th 2014 – PM Notes There Is A Real Problem In Northern NSW
Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells ABC radio, “Wild dogs have been a problem in significant parts of country Australia … they’re quite a serious problem in northern New South Wales as well. I’d learnt some years ago … that wild dogs were a difficulty in the high country of Victoria, but I now discover that this is a much more widespread problem.”
AUG 25th 2014 – Wild Dog Control Program In Northern NSW Commences
Local Land Services (LLS), Forestry Corporation of NSW, private landholders and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) collectively undertook a ‘wild dog monitoring and control program’ across the Northern Rivers Region, from August 25th to November 14th 2014.
NPWS Pest Management Officer, Lisa Wellman said, “Monitoring allows wild dogs to be targeted in areas where they are found and in the past has shown that control has been effective. We have received very positive feedback from the community in response to our programs.”
The program included the Cudgen Nature Reserve and used 1080 baits in an attempt to control feral dogs.
DEC 2014 – MAR 2015 – Property Owners On Ranges Report Growing Number Of Packs
In a letter to the Tweed Daily News, Bilambil property owner Nick Cropp told of scores of wild dogs in his area and said he had recently culled as many as 18 individual animals. He photographed ‘hunting packs’ on his property and said, “we are in the midst of very large wild dog problem in our area” and notes his property’s close proximity to several local schools, some just 2km away.
JAN 8th 2015 – Loved Pet Mysteriously Disappears In Tweed Beach Dunes
Kingscliff resident Yolana Sutherland was walking through dunes when her border terrier Casey ran up a sand hill and never returned. Mrs Sutherland searched for weeks, putting up missing posters and setting up a Facebook page.
“Normally when you whistle or squeak her toy she came back. Within minutes we were up on the dune and looking for her but there was no sign,” Ms Sutherland told the Daily Telegraph.
The dog was micro-chipped and had a collar but has not been seen since – there are suspicions wild dogs may have been behind the disappearance.
“We spoke to some people nearby who had seen a wild dog with a pup about the same time Casey went missing,” she said.
JAN 12th 2015 – Pack Of Up To 8 Wild Dogs Attempt To Take Calf Near Nimbin
Larnook (near Nimbin) local Rosemary Whitehead posted to a local Facebook page saying, “Just saw a pack of 7 or 8 large wild dogs try and take a calf down in a paddock at Larnook. Took a bit to scare them off. Posting so others in the area are aware they are around.”
Rosemary said she had reported the incident and dog pack to authorities saying, “The ranger believes it (the pack) has grown in size recently due to a couple of good breeding seasons. He feels the pack has split and that there is a few packs now living from Uki to Lismore and surrounds. Many reports from Stoney Chute and Rock Valley/Larnook.”
She said the pack was ‘particularly nasty’ and added, “watched them come along a ridge then down into the paddock. They stuck to the tree line … only went out into the open to try to take down the calf. I had not seen such a large pack of such large dogs. Their first reaction was to stand their ground … I have contacted LPA, they have had many reports on these dogs. It seems they have been causing a lot of issues with livestock as well as showing aggression to people.”
Her post sparked an online debate from locals who reported a wide range of other incidents and concerns, including ‘packs of wild dogs along the ridges all the way to Billinudgel’.
JAN 14th 2015 – Northern Rivers Community Warned Of Increase In Dogs In Populated Areas
Dean Chamberlain from Local Land Service claimed the sizeable wild dog population continued to cause problems.
Mr Chamberlain told the Star, “It’s worse this time of year because you’ve got pups around that have grown up from surviving litters … the pups are probably six to eight months old and you’ve got the adults teaching them how to hunt.”
JAN 16th 2015 – Dog Problem Reported To Be Out Of Control
Northern Star’s follow up report said, ‘the wild dog population in the Northern Rivers is out of control’ – this according to Mark Loosemore, who runs Australian Feral Pest Management Service. Mr Loosemore said he ‘believes dog numbers are growing mostly unhindered, partially due to Local Land Services’ limited funding.’
“The control methods used are inadequate, as trapping is rarely a method that is considered and is totally undervalued and underutilised.” – Dog Trapper Mark Loosemore
FEB 19th 2015 – Wild Dogs Kill Pet Dog On Back Porch In Lismore
A pack of wild dogs were reported to have attacked domestic pet dogs in Lismore, killing one and injuring another, all witnessed by a neighbour who saw the dogs came onto the back porch and attack the domestic dogs living there.
North Coast Local Land Services team leader Dean Chamberlain told the media the attack confirmed suspicions there were “peri-urban wild dogs” in urban areas adjacent to rural land.
FEB 22nd 2015 – Grandmother Terrorised By Hunting Pack Near Cabarita
Cabarita grandmother Edna Ryan was chased and hunted by a pack of wild dogs in the southern Casuarina dunes. The 78-year-old was forced to run into the surf to escape the dogs, and negotiated her way back to Cabarita through the waves whilst being stalked by the pack. The dogs were circling her in the shallows all the way to Cabarita.
Mrs Ryan told the Tweed Daily News, “Three of them emerged from the dunes, like a pack of huskies … they were muscly … and wanted to hunt me as though I was food. I looked in every direction and had nowhere to go, except into the water.”
When the dogs finally left she made a dash for home. However, as soon as she left the surf they returned and chased her all the way to her suburban Cabarita residence. She believed the same dogs had been stalking her on her beach walk weeks earlier.
FEB 28th 2015 – Pottsville Farmer With A Grim Warning
Pottsville farmer Steve Petersen said he has photographed dozens of wild dogs in his area and that they have been killing his stock. He warns, “one day it will happen; a kid will be taken.”
Tweed Daily News reports on his dog problem in the area. Mr Petersen says he’s trapped and removed over 30 animals in just the last two years alone in the Dunloe area near Pottsville and warns of ‘breeding lairs’ in the dunes there.
Tweed Council pest management program leader Pam Gray downplayed the numbers and denied the farmer’s claims, but admitted the wild dogs ‘typically travel over multiple properties within their home range’ and that ‘it would be incorrect to suggest they remain within a particular land parcel in the Tweed Coast area’.
She told the Tweed Daily News, “The number of wild dog trappings and sightings reported by the property owner exceed the levels identified by council’s own monitoring programs.”
“Eventually someone will get attacked, like on Fraser Island … If there are more than two dogs, you wouldn’t stand a chance” – Pottsville grazier Steve Petersen
MAR 3rd 2015 – Baiting Program Recommences In Cudgen Reserve
A baiting program began in the Cudgen Nature Reserve. Jenny Atkins from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) told Northern Star the control of wild dogs was a high priority and the NPWS was working closely with neighbours, Tweed Shire Council and the North Coast Local Land Services (LLS).
“There have been some reports wild dogs may be being supplied food in the local area which may have contributed to this current situation,” she said.
MAR 14th 2015 – Pet Dog Savaged At Casuarina As Wild Dogs Exhibit Little Fear Of Man
Maddie, a border collie cross, was attacked and fatally injured by wild dogs just off Casuarina estate’s popular exercise trail. The attack happened at around 6am with owners Christine and Arthur Jackson forced to take Maddie to the vet to be euthanised shortly after.
A passer by reported there was possibly a ‘dingo’ in the area and Mr Jackson, who had just returned with the dogs off-leash from a beach walk, came across his pet being ferociously mauled by a wild dog. Mr Jackson chased the attacking dog off with a stick and noted that it did not exhibit any genuine fear of him at all.
Mr Jackson told Tweed Daily News, “She was so severely savaged by this wild dog, we had to have her put down. It was just devastating and frightening.”
“When dogs are reacting like this to human life and they’re coming into public areas, something has to be done,” Mrs Jackson said.
“We’re going to end up with a kid mauled unless something is done and very quickly … Fraser Island has had problems with that and dingoes actually attacked children, so it’s logical that they will be dangerous to small children,” Mr Jackson added.
MAR 16th 2015 – Council Urges People To Avoid Casuarina And Cudgen Bushland And Pathways
Tweed Shire Council released a statement warning people to avoid the area. It read – “Members of the public are strongly urged to stay out of the coastal native vegetation areas from Cudgen Creek to Cudgen Nature Reserve and the adjacent cycleways, as Council and National Park and Wildlife Service officers respond to a series of wild dog attacks in the area.”
They list some Key DOs and DON’Ts:
- Never approach, entice or feed any wild dogs
- If you are approached by wild dogs – stop, fold your arms and back away slowly
- In the unlikely event you are attacked by a wild dog, be as aggressive and loud as you can and, if available, use a stick to ward them off
MAR 23rd 2015 – Council Admits Increased Sightings Of ‘Hybrid’ Wild Dogs
A Tweed Council spokespersons told the Sydney Telegraph, “Wild dog sightings have increased near urban areas on Council-controlled land along the Tweed Coast, from Cudgen Creek to Pottsville,” and the animals are suspected to be “dingo-domestic” dog hybrids.
MAR 30th 2015 – Cudgen Nature Reserve Official Closed As Armed Rangers Move In
Tweed Shire Council officially closes large area of Casuarina bush tracks and Cudgen Nature Reserve as remaining dog suspected to be part of the pack is hunted by armed ‘posse’ of rangers.
APR 1st 2015 – Three Suspect Dogs Killed
The last of three dogs believed to be in the pack that has been marauding in the area is killed by biosecurity officers.
The Tweed Shire Council will reportedly reopen the area for Easter but warns people to be vigilant. Security guards that had been employed to keep people out will also leave the site.
So are we safe now?
With all of the reports and the escalating incidents involving encounters between pets, people, livestock and wild dogs it is with almost 100% certainty one would presume that the specific dogs causing problems within the Cudgen and Casuarina area will not be the last. Farmers and property owners have complained that authorities are underfunded and undergunned in their fight to manage the problem, and warnings have been issued that people may be the next item on the menu for some of these marauding pack hunters.
The authorities have certainly ramped up their approach, and with some notable success they have secured some areas and managed one very localised problem – at least for now. But where does that put us all in the long-term scheme of things? It is clear that this problem is not going away any time soon, may actually be getting much worse and that more funding and an intensified pro-active approach is needed.
Far better public awareness is obviously also still needed – the editor of LiQUiFY telephoned his mother this afternoon, herself a grandmother and resident of nearby Chinderah, to get her take on it. She had heard nothing of the problems or incidents and for the sake of argument, would happily walk the Casuarina trails and bush tracks tomorrow with no concern whatsover regarding wild dogs. We are not dog experts although the last few days have opened our eyes for sure, and of course, we absolutely insist you foremost get professional advice from the web links listed below … but as for our opinion? We recommend you keep your children at arms length, your dogs at home or in the car and carry a whopping big stick whenever you take to a bush track or dune along the Tweed Coast from now on //
- Tweed Shire Council info – http://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/WildDogs
- Report any wild dog sightings in Tweed Shire to council on (02) 6670 2400 and to LLS on 0427 458 590
- Local Land Services Cudgen/Casuarina Wild Dog Advice Page
“Accurate descriptions, including location, size, colour and type of dog will be particularly beneficial to our efforts to manage the situation. However, we stress again, do not deliberately approach wild dogs.” – Tweed Shire Council Official