Animal programs

Shooters answer the call to cull wild animals in the face of foot-and-mouth disease

Hunters and sport shooters say they could help eliminate wildlife populations and reduce the risk of foot-and-mouth disease.

A 2018 Department of Health report found there were around 640,000 recreational hunters and shooters in Australia, not including farmers shooting pests on their properties.

South East Field and Game Association president Charles Wallis said hunters could work with landowners, the commercial sector and the government to cull wild hogs and deer.

“If called, the hunters would help in any way possible,” he said.

“Certainly, the expertise is there and the skill is there, if they are called upon.”

Mr Wallis said any effort to eliminate wild animals would require “tremendous coordination” and should ideally be a national undertaking.

“There are a number of groups – like [the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia] and Field and Game – who have a strong track record of working with farmers and in national parks exterminating wild animals,” he said.

There are approximately two million wild deer in Australia.(Provided: Pierre Tremain)

Extended support

Mr Wallis said any large-scale culling of pigs and deer would also need support from the private sector, including timber plantation operators.

“I think the planning process needs to happen now,” he said.

He said he hoped foot and mouth disease would never come to Australia.

“But if so, we have to be prepared in advance,” he said.

Wallis said it would be appropriate to consider out-of-pocket costs as the cost of ammunition was rising and availability was becoming more difficult for hunters.

“I think shooters will want to make sure things like insurance, liability, access and clearances are covered, and maybe consider compensation for ammunition and associated costs,” he said. -he declares.

Regional South Australia shadow minister Nicola Centofanti said her party favored a nationwide cull.

“I think we need a national, coordinated approach where all stakeholders come together and consider eliminating wild animals like pigs and deer,” she said.

“I also call on the federal government to invest additional funds in eradication programs.”

A group of wild pigs
Australia has around 24 million feral pigs.(Provided)

Ms Centofanti, a veterinarian by trade, said the disease would spread rapidly if an outbreak were to occur in the wild animal population.

“I think there is a real risk that if foot and mouth disease were to enter our wildlife population, it would be next to impossible for us to contain the virus,” she said.

“Wild animals don’t stop at borders – so it’s really important that we act with other states and the federal government.”

She said hunter and sport shooter groups could be used nationwide in control efforts.

“There is a real feeling right now that the community wants to support our breeders and do what is necessary to minimize the risk of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease,” she said.