THE drought in the Upper Hunter has seen a surge of feral animals in search of feed and water, impacting landholders.
For the fourth consecutive year, the biosecurity team of the Hunter Local Land Services are ramping up to roll out their successful annual aerial shooting program, which has helped reduce feral species, in combination with baiting and professional shooters and trappers.
More than 200 properties participated in the aerial baiting program in May, with Hunter LLS covering all costs for the last two years of the program during the drought.
Landowners in some areas of the Upper Hunter are reporting deer numbers are down by as much as two thirds on populations two years ago.
Luke Booth, team leader for the LLS, said the program is having a significant impact to cull feral species numbers and help farmers cope during the drought.
“Over the last three years of the drought we saw an increased presence of pests on properties, as they came in search of feed and water, the bushfires further compounded that situation in many parts of our region,” said Luke Booth.
“Through a combination of intense strategic programs including ground and aerial works, utilising Professional Controllers and working closely with local wild dog associations and community groups we have redoubled efforts this autumn to control pest animals across the region,” he said.
“Already we are seeing the positive cumulative impact of these repeated annual campaigns, with landholders reporting fewer pests returning to these properties over time,” said Luke.
“The program across the Hunter and Manning Great Lakes this year resulted in the removal of 765 deer, 714 pigs, five foxes and two wild dogs.”
“Our strategic programs are all planned in partnership with local associations and in line with the Regional Strategic Pest Animal Management Plan, to ensure our customers have a say in ensuring any local hotspots are targeted.”
“This is the fourth time we have undertaken an aerial shooting campaign across the district, and it is showing we are making a big impact on feral deer populations – which is great news for landholders trying to maintain feed and water supplies for stock in the worst drought on record,” said Luke.
“For producers to report they are able to carry more stock or their crops and pastures are surviving to harvest without being over grazed and wrecked by feral deer is a big success story.”
For information on group control programs underway in your district, please contact our Biosecurity Team on 1300 795 299.