Aerial baiting in Victoria

Aerial baiting in Victoria is part of a coordinated effort to reduce the impact of wild dogs on livestock producers. Aerial baiting complements on-ground measures by public and private land managers such as:

  • baiting
  • trapping
  • shooting
  • exclusion fencing.

The operation is undertaken in a 3km livestock protection buffer on public land in hard to reach areas of Gippsland and North East Victoria. Community consultation identified sites for aerial baiting that are:

  • inaccessible to conventional control methods
  • are known wild dog pathways
  • have proximity to private land where wild dog impacts have been reported.

Aerial baiting incorporates the aerial deployment of approximately 4000 fresh meat baits along approximately 400km of public land.

Areas in East Gippsland include:

  • Angora and Cobungra
  • Bindi
  • Wonnangatta and Punchen Budweid

Areas in the North East include:

  • Burrowa
  • Bullhead
  • Wabba

Aerial baiting is undertaken along defined transects in six sites during spring and autumn. These are the most effective times to target wild dogs.

Aerial baiting maps

Interactive aerial baiting map

Screenshot of aerial baiting areas interactive mapThe interactive aerial baiting map displays the aerial baiting transects and six aerial baiting areas across Gippsland and North East Victoria.

The transects will be flown by helicopter during the aerial baiting operation and are located within 3km of the private land and public land interface.

View the interactive aerial baiting map:

Interactive aerial baiting map

Individual documents and maps for each of the six aerial baiting areas are linked below:

Aerial baiting in Victoria occurs in accordance with an approval (2011/6183) granted by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Further approval has been granted at the current six sites until the end of December 2023.

Part of the plan

Victoria has a five year plan for managing wild dogs. The plan is based on a coordinated approach involving:

  • the Victorian Government
  • landholders
  • the livestock industry
  • local communities.

Read the Action plan for managing wild dogs in Victoria.

Aerial baiting is just one control technique and complements other on-ground measures including the successful Fox and wild dog bounty.

Wild Dog Aerial Baiting Operation Report – May 2021

Wild Dog Program – Forest, Fire and Regions Group

Background

The Victorian Government submitted an application to the Australian Government in 2011 to undertake aerial baiting for the management of wild dogs in the eastern highlands of Victoria. On 21st December 2011, this submission was deemed a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) based on the relevant controlling provisions of Sections 18 and 18A (listed threatened species and communities). The species of concern was the endangered Spot-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus), populations of which are considered to be fragmented in Victoria.

In 2012–2013 the then Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) conducted a monitored remote ground baiting operation which served the dual purpose of carrying out control in lieu of aerial baiting and gathering monitoring data to inform a variation to the existing aerial baiting submission.

On 21st March 2014, based on a resubmitted application that included the information from ground monitoring and additional information on Spot-tailed Quoll prevalence in baiting areas, the Australian Government provided conditional approval under the EPBC Act (2011/6183) to conduct aerial baiting. This approval allowed for baiting to occur until 31st December 2019 in nominated zones across Gippsland and North East regions which collectively cover the eastern highlands of Victoria. In December 2019, an application for extension of the above time-frame to 31 December 2023 was submitted and approved by the Australian Government.

On 7th and 8th May 2021 an aerial baiting operation was conducted under the above approval. This report provides an overview of the operation and describes how the conditions of the EPBC approval were met.  The aerial baiting operation complements the Victorian Government’s current wild dog program which incorporates a suite of techniques to reduce the impact of wild dogs on livestock enterprises.

Note that, following the machinery of Government changes in January 2015, the relevant functions in the Department of Environment and Primary Industries were incorporated into the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR).

Statements of compliance with the ten conditions of EPBC 2011/6183 approval

Condition 1: Aerial baiting must not occur outside the aerial baiting areas as identified for each of the six sites

Baiting occurred at the six sites identified in the EPBC application and in no other area (see Appendix 1).

On 7th May 2021, the aerial baiting operation commenced in six aerial baiting zones approved in the EPBC Approval (2011/6183).  The operation was conducted over a two-day period and concluded on 8th May 2021 (Table 1).

The baits were only deployed along the predetermined transects with an accuracy of within 10 metres (Appendix 2: Bait deployment maps for each site).

Table 1: Summary of completed aerial baiting program

Gippsland

Baiting Zone

Airbase

Deployment Date

Kms baited

Baits deployed

Angora and Cobungra

Swifts Creek

7th May 2021

91.2

848

Bindi

Swifts Creek

8th May 2021

110.0

1,027

Wonnangatta and Punchen Budweid

Swifts Creek

7th May 2021

66.1

610

Sub Total

N/AN/A

267.3

2,485

Hume

Baiting Zone

Airbase

Deployment Date

Kms baited

Baits deployed

Bullhead

Swifts Creek

7th May 2021

53.4

488

Burrowa

Swifts Creek

7th May 2021

53.2

487

Wabba

Swifts Creek

7th May 2021

51.5

476

Sub Total

N/AN/A

158.1

1,451

Totals

425.4 total kilometres baited

3,936 total baits deployed

Condition 2: Aerial baiting must not occur between 20th June and 10th October in any given year

Aerial baiting was conducted from 7th to 8th May 2021 (Table 1).

Condition 3: For the entire first season of aerial baiting, the person taking the action must monitor for Spot-tailed Quoll in at least three of the six areas

Monitoring for Spot-tailed Quoll occurred during the first season of aerial baiting at Wabba, Angora and Cobungra and Bindi. The monitoring was conducted in accordance with the relevant guidelines and no Spot-tailed Quolls were detected.

Condition 3a: In addition, the person taking the action must again monitor for Spot-tailed Quoll for one season in at least three of the six areas

Variation dated 10/3/2020 3A. In addition, the person taking the action must again monitor for Spot-tailed Quoll for one season in at least three of the six areas identified at Appendix A within 18 months of re-commencement of aerial baiting operations in 2020. This monitoring was conducted at Wabba, Angora-Cobungra and Bindi from late April to late May 2021. No Spot-tailed Quolls were detected. A full report detailing the methodology, timing and results of this monitoring will be available in October.

Condition 4: In the event that a Spot-tailed Quoll is recorded during the monitoring period then the person taking the action must undertake a review of aerial baiting activities at the affected site

No Spot-tailed Quolls were detected in any of the three monitored zones.

Condition 5: Five days prior to the commencement of the action, the person taking the action must advise the Department verbally and in writing of the planned date of commencement

Five days prior to the commencement of the action the Department of Environment was notified verbally and in writing of the starting date.

Condition 6: The person taking the action must maintain accurate records substantiating all activities

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (now DELWP) keeps records in accordance with the Public Records Act 1973, and as such maintains accurate records of the actions pertaining to EPBC Approval (2011/6183).

Condition 7: By September 30th each year, the person taking the action must publish a report on their website addressing compliance with the conditions of approval

This report outlines our compliance with the EPBC approval 2011/6183 and has been published on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Note: In January 2015 the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) was split into two new departments with the on-ground operations of the wild dog program coming under the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

Conditions 8–10

Conditions 8–10 of the EPBC approval 2011/6183 are not applicable at this time.

8. Upon the direction of the Minister, the person taking the action must ensure that an independent audit of compliance, with the conditions of approval is conducted and a report submitted to the Minister. The independent auditor must be approved by the Minister prior to the commencement of the audit. Audit criteria must be agreed to by the Minister and the audit report must address the criteria to the satisfaction of the Minister.

9. If, at any time after three years from the date of this approval, the person taking the action has not commenced the action, then the person taking the action must not commence the action without the written agreement of the Minister.

10. Unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the Minister, the person taking the action must publish all documentation referred to in these conditions of approval on their website for a period of no less than six months. Each report of document must be published on the website within one month of being submitted to the Department.

In addition to meeting the conditions of EPBC approval 2011/6183, the aerial baiting operation in Victoria complied with state requirements.

Statement of compliance with relevant state conditions

In addition to meeting the conditions of EPBC approval 2011/6183, the aerial baiting operation in Victoria complied with state requirements.

Permits to conduct aerial baiting

Under the current 1080 label conditions and 1080 Directions for Use (DFU) 1080 predator baits cannot be aerially deployed in Victoria. In addition, 1080 is a restricted use chemical in Victoria, therefore under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 it cannot be used off-label without a Section 25A(2)(b) permit.

In order to commence aerial baiting, a Section 25A permit was applied for and granted by the regulator.

Public land manager approval was sought to bait on public land, with consideration of the following components:

  • compliance with State Aircraft Unit policies
  • OHS standards
  • legislative requirements
  • welfare of staff/contractors/stakeholders
  • alignment to department values
  • location of baiting zones
  • adequate communications plan (signage and notifications) and
  • occurrence reporting arrangements.

These issues were addressed via an internal DELWP Notification to Conduct works on Pest Animals (NTCPA). In October 2020, approval for the aerial baiting program on all nominated public land was granted.

Baiting rate

The DELWP GIS team determined bait drop points along baiting transects ensuring strict adherence to the minimum buffer distances prescribed in the Section 25A permit outlined below.

Maximum baiting rate:

  • 10 baits per kilometre
  • 1 bait per 10 hectares

Distance restrictions

  • Baits must not be placed within 500 metres of a dwelling
  • Baits must not be placed within 100 metres of a permanent or flowing water body
  • Baits must not be placed within 100 metres of a drinking water supply
  • Baits must not be placed within 100 metres of boundary fences
  • Baits must not be placed within 50 metres of formed public roadways

The helicopter was fitted with a GPS system that was operated by the pilot and bait dispenser operator in tandem to ensure the baiting transects and bait drop points were accurately implemented.

In addition, the pilot and bait dispenser operator visually verified the area was clear of people, water points, neighbouring land and tracks before each bait was deployed.

The baits were dropped from 60 to 80 metres above the tree canopy, through a bait dispenser tube, fitted with a trigger device that recorded each bait drop point. Following the completion of the operation a full record of the flight path and bait drop locations were downloaded from the GPS (Appendix 2: Bait deployment maps for each site).

Table 2: Planned aerial baiting zones

Gippsland

Baiting zone

Transects to be Baited (km)

Baits Required per Area

Angora and Cobungra

91

848

Bindi

110

1,027

Wonnangatta and Punchen Budweid

66

610

Sub Total

267

2,485

Hume

Baiting zone

Transects to be Baited (km)

Baits Required per Area

Bullhead

53

488

Burrowa

53

487

Wabba

52

476

Sub Total

158

1,451

Totals

425 total transects to be Baited (km)

3,936 total baits required per area.

Bait manufacture, handling and deployment

The baits were manufactured by a company approved and licensed by the Department of Health and met the standards set by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

The baits were manufactured and packed into containers that met the specifications detailed within the Victorian Code of Practice for the Preparation of Perishable 1080 Pest Animal Bait Product Using 1080 Aqueous Solution. The baits were labelled as per the requirements of Part 2 Labels and Containers of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons.

In accordance with an order made under Section 25A of the Agricultural and Veterinary (Control of Use) Act 1992, all perishable 1080 pest animal baits must be laid within three days of the date of manufacture. Consistent with this order, the date of the manufacture was included on the perishable 1080 pest animal bait product label and the manufacturer was requested to produce the baits as close to the time of delivery as practicable.

All unused baits, rubbish and waste potentially containing 1080 was disposed of in accordance with the DFU. All the buckets that the baits were delivered in were thoroughly decontaminated and returned to the manufacturer.

All bait products were stored according to the specifications documented within the DFU and product label.  Paton Air supplied a refrigerated trailer for bait storage and transport.

Aerial contractor

The State Aircraft Unit (SAU) was employed to contract the aircraft contractor for the aerial deployment of baits. The SAU provided a list of suitable contractors from their “Call When Needed” register. Based on the accreditations, qualifications and experience of the contractors, a preferred contractor was identified.

An aerial operations plan was developed by the air contractor, SAU and DELWP staff. It identified risks and developed mitigation strategies as required in the Section 25A permit. The contract for services included all aspects of air operations including fuel supply and aircraft personnel (pilot, navigator, bait dispenser operator and ground crew.)

All air operations were managed within the requirements of the State Air Unit.

The air contractor:

  • met all relevant conditions specified under the Section 25A permit
  • met all State Aircraft Unit policies
  • supplied a pilot and a bait dispenser operator that met chemical handling and commercial operator requirements for conducting aerial baiting
  • supplied a Type 3 (light) helicopter compliant with requirements of State Air Unit Procedure (SAUP SO 4.01- aerial application, baiting or spraying operations)
  • supplied a bait dispenser/GPS recorder capable of dispensing and recording bait drop information, to ensure:
    • – compliance with the required baiting rate of 10 baits per lineal km
    • – a track log of each flight was recorded, and
    • – compliance with SAUP SO 4.01 requirements.

All aircraft operations were performed under day visual flight rule (VFR) conditions

These conditions mandate that flights only proceed under clear weather and between first and last light, with flight work completed half an hour before last light.

Compliance with the VFR conditions resulted in the operation being conducted over two days, 20th and 21st October 2020.

A detailed briefing was held at the commencement and conclusion of each day’s operation.

Neighbour notifications and signage

In order to fulfil the notification requirements of the DFU all neighbouring landowners were notified of the baiting operation at least 72 hours prior to its commencement.

The DELWP team identified every property that required notification and landowner details were then obtained from the relevant local government council.

The standard 1080 neighbour notification for ground baiting was modified to reflect the differences for aerial baiting and mailed to every identified neighbour.

Where aerial baiting occurred on public land leased or licensed by private interests, the licensee/lessee were sent a letter informing them of the operation.

Immediately prior to the commencement of the aerial baiting operation, warning signs were posted at all entry points including roads and major walking tracks, as required by the DFU.

Deployment

Fresh meat baits containing 6mg of sodium fluoroacetate (1080) were deployed from a S350 Squirrel helicopter in inaccessible areas of eastern Victoria known to be prone to regular wild dog activity (Appendix 1: All six aerial baiting zones in Gippsland and Hume regions of Victoria).

The operation was held over a two-day period on the 7th and 8th May 2021.

The timing of the operation took into account:

  • EPBC approval and conditions
  • Spot-tailed Quoll breeding period
  • planned burning operations
  • availability of contractors
  • establishing appropriate monitoring
  • obtaining relevant approvals (e.g. section 25A)
  • effective timing for wild dog control
  • DELWP and approval timelines (e.g. expiry of Section 25A)
  • minimising off target bait take (e.g. goanna activity) and
  • favourable weather conditions.

An airbase was established at the Swifts Creek DELWP airbase providing operational support for refuelling, bait storage, logistics and flight following.

Deployment dates for each baiting zone are outlined in Table 1.

Baiting was completed in all baiting zones within the approved time period specified in the EPBC 2011/6183 approval.

The wild dog aerial baiting program conducted from 7th to 8th May 2021 complied with the conditions of approval (EPBC 2011/6183) and all other legal requirements.

Aerial baiting is complementary to the other control techniques, including proactive, year-round ground baiting on public land; community baiting programs on private land; proactive and reactive trapping on public and private land; and the provision of advice regarding wild dog management to reduce the impact of wild dogs on livestock.

Pictured below: Map of all six aerial baiting zonesSection of Victorian map showing 6 aerial baiting areas at Burrowa, Bullhead, Wabba, Bindi, Wonnangatta & Punchen Budweid and Angora & Cobungra. Select the link to follow to use interactive online version on the DELWP website

Use the online version of the aerial baiting map on the DELWP website.

Page last updated: 11 Oct 2021