West Ridgley farmer Kerry Haywood says wallaby populations in Tasmania are out of control. Picture: Meg Windram
SINCE surveying began in the 1970s, wallaby populations in Tasmania have rapidly grown and it has left farmers questioning what they can do to cut increasing numbers.
West Ridgley dairy farmer Kerry Haywood said the wallaby population growth on his property has continually worsened, saying it was similar to the rabbit plagues of the ’50s and ’60s.
“They’re nearly right into Burnie now and that’s just in our district,” he said.
“The issue seems to be the same everywhere.”
Despite the Department of Primary Industries and Parks, Water and Environment saying fencing and shooting were the best ways to control wallaby populations, Mr Haywood said this wasn’t enough.
“The wallabies are certainly out of control, no matter how many fences or (how much) shooting you seem to do, I don’t seem to get anywhere near getting on top of the problem,” he said.
“The back country is nearly becoming useless because you can’t run anything because of the amount of wallabies ruining pastures.
“The wallabies get into the corners and clean out all of the grass,” he said.
“When we put fences up they’re right then, but the wombats dig out under the fences which allow the wallabies to come back in.
“We’ve been getting anything up to 300 to 400 coming onto the property for the season.
“It was only the other day when I was down the paddock putting up an electric fence and I could see the wallabies had been in there.”
Mr Haywood said it was making it difficult for any farmers in the region to feed cattle, which would affect the local economy.
A spokesperson for DPIPWE agreed that the wallaby population had seen major increases.
“DPIPWE has been monitoring wallaby populations state-wide since the 1970s and the survey results have shown a major increase in numbers in this time,” the spokesperson said.
DPIPWE said the North-West, in particular, had seen a large increase where the smaller wallaby, the pademelon and the rufous wallaby were most common.
In order to control the population, the DPIPWE spokesperson said farmers should seriously consider using wallaby-proof fencing as a long-term solution.
“It is frequently cost effective in the long term,” the spokesperson said.
“Supplementing fencing with shooting in the short term is also often worthwhile.”
DPIPWE also suggested using sodium monofluoroacetate, or 1080, as it’s commonly known.
“When used appropriately, 1080 poison can be an effective method for short-term control of wallaby numbers.”
However, Mr Haywood said he wasn’t comfortable using 1080, saying it was often associated with bad connotations and accidental poisonings of domestic animals, which were highly susceptible.
“From what I can see there’s nothing that can be done,” he said.
“I was thinking back to the rabbits and how bad they were, people set up fences and they got under those and the fences were the useless.
“Then they brought in 1080 poison and that was OK up to a point.”
Mr Haywood said the “saviour” to the rabbit infestation was the myxomatosis virus, which when introduced, brought rabbit populations under control.
“However, they can’t do the same for wallabies though because they’re a native animal,” Mr Haywood said.
DPIPWE said using a biological agent similar to the myxomatosis virus to control the wallaby population was not being considered by the department.
Another issue that both DPIPWE and Mr Haywood recognised as a problem was properties backing onto bushland or forestry.
DPIPWE said the forest had a particularly high number of wallabies as it provided a refuge for them.
The increasing population isn’t only affecting farmers though, with Mr Haywood saying the wallabies were beginning to travel into urbanised areas.
“I was talking to someone the other day who brought a little place near Burnie 25 years ago when there were no wallabies but they’ve now shot 70 in one day,” he said.
Mr Haywood said people were also hitting wallabies on the roads, causing major damageand costing people thousands of dollars.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.