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Coober Pedy Journal: Mending Fences in the War Between Dingoes and Sheep

Mr. Walton drove along the fence for hours, scanning for holes in the wire, or tunnels dug underneath it by dingoes. He looked across the expanse of his office, a desert so vast you might swear you can see the curvature of the earth. Breaking up the monotony, a mob of emus raced alongside the ute.

In South Australia, the battle against the dingo began in the late 1800s, when ranchers built the first dog-proof fences and patrols were done on camelback.

Over the decades, individual efforts morphed into a single fence in South Australia, which now costs about 1.3 million Australian dollars, or $ 1 million, a year to maintain. Even with the fence, dingoes and other wild dogs cost the agricultural industry about $ 65 million annually, according to the Center for Invasive Species Solutions. This damage is incurred both in and outside the fence and across a range of livestock.

“When you’re lambing, the dog just has to walk through the mob and upset the ewes,” said Richard Treloar, a sheep farmer with two properties protected by the fence. Last year, a few dingoes got through the fence and terrorized his ewes, causing them to abandon their young to die. He was left with 40 percent fewer lambs than the previous year.

Despite the fence’s economic benefits, scientists and conservationists are increasingly concerned about the impact of the dingoes’ absence from whole sections of the country. Without dingoes, feral cats and foxes have flourished, putting pressure on those animals’ smaller native prey, said Thomas Newsome, a dingo expert at the University of Sydney.

Source: NYT > World

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