When I pulled up at the first paddock gate it was just breaking first light. I had intended to unlock the rifle and ammo and load-up in case I saw wild dogs between that point and my destination, a kilometre or so across the farm. However, out where I was heading was a set of vehicle lights.
“Bugger!” I said to myself. It was obviously the farmer out and about where I planned to try for the wild dogs that had attacked one of his cattle yesterday morning. I closed the first gate behind me and headed across the paddock. His vehicle had stopped at another internal gate, about half a kilometre ahead. He was waiting, holding the gate open.
We exchanged pleasantries and he told me that he had gone to give the sick cow an injection and roll it over. He went on to say that he had then gone for a drive to look for wild dogs. He did not have a rifle, so I don’t know what he planned to do if he saw some. There must have been enough light for him to detect the look of disapproval on my face.
“I shouldn’t have done that, eh? Sorry, I should have known better,” he apologised. A few hundred metres away there was a substantial, natural wetland with thousands of waterbirds on it. Suddenly, with a whoosh of wings and alarm calls, the flock took off. “That is probably the dogs. They often chase up the birds on first light.” The light was coming and, with a promise for a good chat on the way home, I set off to try my planned location anyway. It was still quite dark, but the eastern sky before was turning a light pink. I turned off my vehicle lights and drove steadily and slowly to where I intended to park. The was a slight ridge between where the cow lay, and where I intended to stop, that would hide the approach of the car.
Just as I rolled to a stop, beautifully highlighted by the brightening sky, four wild dogs went running across the ridgeline in front of me. I set about kitting up, then walked a couple of hundred metres up and over the ridgeline. I scanned the prone cow with my binoculars but saw no dogs present. With a gatepost as a backrest, I sat facing east, and the stricken cow. I began calling.
I did a few howls to start with, but then changed over to a predator call. The dogs I saw looked to be young adults, from the 2018 breeding season. Quite likely, they would avoid adult dogs that may give them a flogging, but they would be interested in a small animal in distress. It is these delinquent teenager wild dogs responsible for a lot of stock attacks at this time of the year.
After about twenty minutes, the sun peaked over the horizon and shone in my face. I hoped that maybe the dogs were doing a lap and may cycle back past me. The cattle in the paddock, about 50 in number, drifted over to visit their sick companion. After milling about and nosing her for some time, they came up to say hello to me. The whole mob came up to within a couple of metres to sniff and stare at me. That put an end to this morning’s effort.
On the way back to the farmhouse I stopped briefly to photograph some Brolgas and Sarus Cranes, two lookalike but different species. The farmer saw me coming and came to open the gate for me. He apologized again for spoiling my chance and we had a good chat about cattle, wildlife and the challenges of being a farmer. He promised he would stay away from the sick cow tomorrow morning, so we will repeat that effort again tomorrow morning.