Feral pig populations in Queensland’s north are in the sights of Shooters Union Australia, who say they have plenty of members willing to reduce the threat of pigs spreading disease, if they were allowed onto state managed land. Picture supplied by Desert Channels Queensland.
The increasing threat posed by African Swine Fever on Australia’s doorstep has prompted the Shooters Union of Australia to renew calls for a State Lands hunting plan.
Katter’s Australian Party MP Nick Dametto last year sponsored a petition calling for a trial of conservation hunting in state forests, gathering over 13,500 signatures.
It hit a brick wall of government rejection with Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch stating it was inconsistent with long-standing management arrangements for state forests, citing a duty of care to ensure the safety of tourists and visitors.
She said the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service already collaborated with the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia’s Conservation and Wildlife Management Queensland division to conduct pest animal management activities on properties owned by governments, private landowners and conservation groups.
Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park described that as a very niche operation that was the ALP’s way of saying it was doing something.
“The reality is, so few participate in it, from a pest management point of view it’s a non-event,” he said.
Mr Park said there were literally hundreds of thousands of licensed, law-abiding shooters in Queensland and around Australia who would not only be happy to control feral pigs for free, they’d even pay the government a fee to do it.
“If you have a look at the maps, North Queensland is absolutely overrun with feral pigs and they are abundant throughout pretty much everywhere else in the state too,” he said.
An IA CRC and NLWRA map showing where feral pigs are found in Australia.
“All these rural areas are crying out for an influx of dollars and we’ve got 200,000 licensed shooters in Queensland who would be only too happy to oblige by visiting the regions and shooting their feral pest animals.”
A recent report commissioned by Australian Pork found feral pigs caused an estimated $106.5m in damage each year and that up to 70 per cent of the population needed to be culled each year to prevent it from expanding.
A state government spokesman commented that QPWS, like all landholders, manages declared pests such as feral pigs, on its land.
He said trapping had been used as an effective means of removing the threat of feral pigs from national parks in some areas for more than 20 years.
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries supports feral pig management by local government and landholders using a range of controls including aerial and ground shooting, trapping and baiting,” he said.
“Queensland has also conducted significant evaluation of baits and their best use. The results are made available to landholders and land managers.”
The question of introducing a State Lands hunting scheme wasn’t addressed by the spokesman.
According to Mr Park, not having something along the lines of programs operating in NSW and Victoria meant shooters couldn’t pursue pigs to where they were hiding.
“Feral pigs are smart and know full well if they go to certain places – state forests and national parks – no-one will come and shoot them,” he said.
“The pigs can breed safely in the state or national parks then come back into farmland to cause chaos, escaping back to the parks before farmers and shooters can eliminate them all.
“This completely undermines the efforts by landowners and shooters to protect Queensland’s biodiversity.”
Mr Park said state land hunting schemes in other states allowed people onto unused state forest and was managed via an app that controlled how many people were in any one area at a time.
“We approached the government a couple of months after the petition had been presented and just got a flat ‘we have no plan to change our mind’ response,” he said.
National Feral Pig Management coordinator Heather Channon said that as part of the development of the National Feral Pig Action Plan, they were commencing consultation with stakeholders.
“All views will be looked at by the steering group before any suggested policy recommendations are able to be made,” Dr Channon said.