WARNING: Deer dogs and 1080 baits
I am passionate about hunting deer, but mostly I love stalking sambar deer with my loyal deer dogs (Pointers).
While a well-trained deer dog is one of the most valuable weapons in a deer hunter’s arsenal, deer dogs come with some down sides.
A major down side includes the potential for a deer dog to be killed by those methods used to kill wild dogs, in particular baiting methods.
Wild dogs pose a real problem for farmers and the government announced $6.3 million of funding over four years to support the ongoing management of foxes and wild dogs in the 2016-2017 Victorian Budget, including twice yearly aerial baiting for wild dogs (www.agriculture.vic.gov.au).
In March 2017 my youngest dog picked up a sausage looking bait along a privately owned fence line in the Victorian high country while sambar deer hunting. A long way from a vet and unsure if my dog had swallowed any bait, all I could do was make the dog vomit and wait. It was a horrible wait but luckily my dog had not swallowed anything.
So as a deer hunter using a dog, how can I better protect my dogs, especially given that it now seems like all state forest have baiting signs erected in them.
Step one: Understand 1080 baits and distribution
The following bait types are used in areas favorable to wild dog movement include vehicle tracks, fence and creek lines, gullies and ridges, contour banks, vegetation borders and watering points.
Maps exist to show where baits are being dropped along set transects (www.agriculture.vic.gov.au). The aerial baiting occurs in in Autumn and Spring to target young dogs and mating dogs moving a lot.
Shelf stable manufactured baits and fresh meat baits can be either buried or left on the ground surface. Shelf stable baits can be stored for longer, have a greater maximum toxicity in the bush and are easier to use than fresh meat baits. Ground baits that are uneaten eventually lose their toxicity, however, this can take a long time depending on the bait type and weather conditions.
Canid Pest Ejector (CPE)
These are a newer tool used to keep better track of baiting programs and more specifically target dogs and foxes. The ejector is a spring-loaded device where a capsule of 1080 poison is placed inside a piece of meat. When a dog or fox pulls on the meat, the poison is fired directly into the animal’s mouth.
Step two: Understand how 1080 works
1080 (sodium fluroacetate) is a highly toxic pesticide that once ingested and absorbed interferes with cellular energy production leading to a breakdown in the central nervous system. The signs of poisoning are usually noticed within half an hour of ingestion, although symptoms can take more than six hours to manifest depending on bait age, animal size and ingestion amount.
Once absorbed symptoms include vomiting, anxiety, disorientation and shaking. These quickly develop into frenzied behavior with running and screaming fits, drooling at the mouth, uncontrolled paddling and seizures, followed by total collapse and death.
Once absorbed there is no cure for a dog.
Step three: Understand prevention and immediate action
The best strategy to avoid baits is to stay away from aerial baiting areas, boundary fencing and roads.
Avoiding baits completely is difficult though because we don’t ever really know where a bait is! Baits can be moved by animals and baits may be laid by farmers without the required signage.
To make it worse local government land managers don’t document baiting programs in a way that can be used when planning a hunt. Deer hunters have to find baiting signs in our deer hunting spots once we get there. While the local department phone number is on the baiting signs, this is of little help by then.
Muzzles are the best solution for hunters, but they are something very different for us to consider using. The dogs hate them at first and they get hung up while a dog moves through the bush. Below is a type of muzzle I am trialing at the moment and that I suggest to my hunting clients.
Lastly if a dog picks up a bait, you should make it vomit. I carry salt and if you pour it down the dogs throat it will make it vomit. Then take your dog to the vet and hopefully the dosage is low enough to save the dog.
While deer hunting with a dog is not a government priority, it is growing in popularity and better documentation, timing and strategy (like that for aerial baiting) for laying ground/CPE baits would help us concerned hunters greatly.
Daniel Grixti Ultimate Hunting Australia