Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Dogger, Dingo Trapper

Once were Dingos Now are Wild dogs

In the early days the predator dog was mainly a dingo, the dog that was here before European settlement. The dingo had as much bush savvy as the aboriginal people, and could track prey for many miles. This dingo was called a Warrigal.

Later, the dingo became known as 'a wild dog'. This title occurred with the mixing of working dogs that had strayed from droving camps, properties and from townies that insisted on keeping working dogs without giving them work.

The working breed dog is bred to work; working is as instinctive as mating with these animals, and some of the working dogs already have dingo in their blood lines. The Blue and Red Heelers are a typical example of the dingo trait.

These heelers can become quite angry if kept chained without plenty of exercise, as they get bored easily, and express that boredom with anger.

Mixed back with the pure dingo, a cross bred Blue Heeler can become a both savage predator or a humanised animal, the latter being much further from the cautious bush dingo. Stock, up to large calves, have little hope against one or two of these cross breeds.

So, then comes the most disgusting job that any man can take on. The pay might be good, if the man is good at his trade, but the living conditions leave much to be desired. Enter the "dogger"—humans shunned when at work, but most needed by those that might shun him.

The stock owners of all states and territories must keep on the good side of these professional doggers, if they don't it could well cost them stock losses that cannot be afforded. In Queensland, recently, the cost of stock killed by dingos and wild dogs was in the vicinity of sixty-six million dollars.

The dogger must not smell like a human, as humans are the enemy of the wild dogs. Many have come in contact with humans in the past, and the instinct is passed down through the teaching of the older dogs to the young. So, the dogger makes himself smell, as much as he can, like a bitch in heat. This is done by having several tame bitches in his camp and catching their urine in something like a hub cap from a derelict vehicle of a flat pan of some sort, although the flat pan idea could lead to it being used for cooking, by mistake. Better the hub cap.

These female dogs can be trained to urinate in a hub cap without much trouble, and many will hang on until the cap is produced.

The urine from the collection is kept in a glass jar, not tin as tin will react to the acids in the urine, and the urine is also segregated according to the state of fertility of the bitch.

In 'season' urine is prized, and used sparingly to drip onto the set trap, or to entice wild dogs to congregate in certain areas so that shooting is productive. This is only employed in open downs areas where shots can be multiple because of the range of vision. It is not very productive to spend a week or more setting the enticing smells only to get one shot off in a wooded area.

With the handling of his bitches, and catching their urine, some is sure to end up on the dogger's hands and clothing. This is never washed off, and eventually the dogger becomes to smell like one of his dogs himself.

The dogger is given meat and other provisions from the stations that he is contracted with. In some cases a high bounty, above the twenty-five dollars Pastoral Protection board bounty, is paid to the dogger for each scalp, tail and ears of a dingo or wild dog, depending on the amount of stock losses in the area 'dogged'.

In 1959 a bounty of two hundred and fifty pounds was paid for a black and white wild dog.

Wild dogs of current times, are fetching up to $500 for a scalp, and this dog could be running with several lesser dogs that would bring a large sum if all were caught at one time, or during hunt session, which might last up to a month.

As the dogger gets closer to civilisation, town dogs are often caught in the traps of the firing line, and this only serves as a lesson to those that do not control their dogs, and really is no great loss to society.

Trapping dogs is an art. From the time that the good dogger finds the most suitable and most used trail of the marauding dogs,  to the time the trap slams shut on a leg.

The trap is a dog trap, not a rabbit trap as some lesser qualified dog trappers try to use. The dog trap is much stronger and shuts harder but the jaws will cut almost through the dog's leg; if it doesn't, the dog will chew the leg off and escape. It will still be able to hunt with a pack, with three legs, so the trapper's time is wasted, and he has made a dog much more wary of humans than it was before.

The professional dogger carried hessian strips with him as he sets the traps. He wraps one jaw of the trap with the hessian, and in each layer of the wrap sprinkles some strychnine poison.

The trap shuts, the dog is caught with a wound opening on its trapped leg, the poison enters through the wound and also through the dogs mouth as it chews at its leg trying to get out of the trap. The dog is usually dead within fifteen minutes.

I do not want to get into the cruelty of the trade of the dogger. It is something that is done, and something that can cost the stock industry millions and millions of dollars if it is not done.

There are many stories, and so called secret methods used by the doggers of this country, but the one I have described is from first hand experience, watching a dogger at work, from a distance.

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