Wild dog numbers `could explode'

CHILDREN have been threatened in their own backyards by wild dogs and adults have had to fight off a pack that surrounded them in Tasmania's North-West.

Wild packs have established themselves at Lorinna and there are fears it's too late to stop a population explosion in the state.

Lorinna hobby farmer Ricky Heather has trapped and destroyed 17 wild dogs already and said that there were about 20 more roaming in two packs across the valley.

``Someone dumped some about 12 months ago and they've just bred up from there and there are pregnant bitches all the time now,'' he said.

``They're very vicious and there are all different breeds. I don't think we're ever going to be able to get rid of them now because there are just too many of them.

``At the moment they're in the valley and if they get into areas like Liena and into the national parks, the populations could explode.''

Mr Heather said that the dogs were mainly blue heeler and red heeler crosses.

At the moment, the dogs were hunting native wildlife as well as eating roadkill, he said.

``About two weeks ago, I was up in my top garden and I counted eight dogs come down the road in single file - they were chasing a wallaby one after the other, but by the time I got back to my house and got my gun, they were gone.

``I think what's going to happen eventually is they're going to start attacking livestock.''

So far, no one has been attacked by the dogs, but Mr Heather said they were very dangerous.

``There have been a couple of people who have been down to the waterline when the water's gone off and they've been surrounded by the dogs and they've beaten them off with sticks,'' he said.

``They're wild and when they do see people, they're inclined to attack.''

Kentish Mayor Don Thwaites said that he had heard stories about people being intimidated by the dogs.

``Especially children when they go out to the garden or playing outside,'' he said. ``It's not a good situation.''

Mr Heather uses three traps lent to him by the Kentish Council, but he said that was as far as the council's involvement went.

``I haven't had a lot of help from them,'' he said.

Cr Thwaites said that it was a state government issue more than a council one.

A Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment spokesman said that the government had not received any reports of wild dog activity in that area recently.

``In the past, the department has been involved in co-operative wild dog control activities when there has been evidence of their activity in reserve areas,'' the spokesman said.

Mr Heather fears the Lorinna packs could be the beginning of a significant wild dog population across Tasmania, which on the mainland is now seen as the largest threat to the country's sheep and wool industry.

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