Saturday, May 26, 2012

A glimpse along the dog fence

   Fence worker Glen Coddington shows off a dingo pelt from an animal he had shot(ABC News: Tim Lee)

Meet Glen Coddington, the man charged with maintaining a huge chunk of Australia's  5,600-km Dingo fence!

Just after dawn a blood-curdling howl tells Glen Coddington that the dingo is close. Peering from his kitchen window, he spots a large yellow dog gliding in the shadows along the perimeter of the high-wire fence to the north.
Quickly and silently, like a trained assassin, Coddington pokes the barrel of his high-powered rifle through the window and at a range of 150 metres, levelled the crosshairs of his target and fires. The dingo drops, instantly dead. The veteran hunter has claimed another scalp to go with the half a dozen hanging in his shed. When we arrive soon after the dingo’s pelt, scalped from nose to tail, he hangs on a wire hook suspended from a tractor cabin.
“You missed the drama,” chides Coddington gently. “I shot a big dog just before. And what’s worse it was on my side of the fence.”

The Australian Dingo is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with one of the waves of human settlement thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to their wild Asian grey wolf parent species, Canis lupus.
 Dingoes have maintained ancient characteristics that unite them, along with their closest relatives from southeast Asia and the Pacific, into a taxon named after them, Canis lupus dingo, and which separate them from dogs classified as Canis lupus familiaris.
 A dingo's natural habitat can range from deserts, to grasslands and on the verge of forests. They cannot live too far away from water and they normally settle their homes in dens, deserted rabbit holes, and hollow logs.
Wild dogs on the southern side of the fence are a rarity but they exist and this one, evidently lovelorn, had been foolishly and fatally attracted by the presence of Coddington’s large pig dog bitch enclosed within the high tin fence surrounding his modest fibro-cement house.
Coddington is a maintenance man for the Great Barrier Fence, usually called the dog fence. Its aim is to exclude Australia’s native dog - the feared and destructive enemy of the sheep farmer – from entering the vast rangelands and pastoral zones of New South Wales.
“If they didn’t have this fence I think there wouldn’t be a sheep in New South Wales, so it’s very important,” says Coddington, one of a dozen workers stationed at outposts along the entire length of the 1.8-metre high fence and responsible for its upkeep.
A gate in a section of the 5.600km dingo fence in Far-western Queensland

At 5,600 kilometres long, the dog fence is the longest barrier in the world. It begins on the Nullabor Plain near the Western Australian border, meanders through South Australia’s arid north, delineates the border between New South Wales and Western Queensland and finishes on the Darling Downs.
Driving alongside Australia's 5,600km dog fence in far-western Queensland. (ABC News: Tim Lee)

Coddington is based at Hamilton Gate, Hungerford, Queensland - look it up on Google Maps - a mere pin prick on the map at the junction of several unsealed roads. 
His nearest neighbour is 70 kilometres away and a fortnight might pass without him seeing another human. His wife sometimes finds the isolation imprisoning and heads to a regional town for a break - Bourke in New South Wales is 214km, or, a four hour drive but if she wants to stay in Queensland then its 'up the track to Cunnamulla (200km and three hours drive) but Charleville (388km and five and a half hours drive) is a bit more classier with the home base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service - a 'Bush Lifeline'!
Warrego River at Cunnamulla

Relaxing in Charleville

Coddington has long become accustomed to life in one of the nation’s loneliest and remotest outposts.
“I like being in the bush, that’s mainly why I came out here. Country lifestyle’s really good. I don’t mind being by myself, so it’s quite interesting really being out here.”
Once dried, he’ll take this morning’s fresh scalp and his other grisly trophies to the nearest Department of Primary Industries office to claim his reward - a modest bounty of $10 per scalp.
“Not much. But it adds up,” muses Coddington.
It’s simply part of the price of eternal vigilance along Australia’s famed Dog Fence.


The Elephant's Child said...

I loved that sunset. It might almost be worth the heat in that part of the world. Probably not though.

Jim said...

John, this was most interesting and reminded me of a movie, Rabbit Proof Fence' I saw a few years ago.
This is one tough bugger to be able to live so far from everything....I feel for his wife. He though seems quite content....and I do one to bug him! lol
Dingos are wonderful looking creatures and I do appreciate the need to 'cull' them whenever they threaten farmers and sheep/cattle.
Good post.

Annmarie Pipa said...

oh interesting..I would be afraid of the dingoes and living so remotely...very interesting post!

AstridsSoapbox said...

Wow, what a job! So the fence is 5,600kms long eh? And the US can't seem to agree on a much shorter fence here...boggles the mind.

JohnD said...

Sunrise and sunset are the two most beautiful times of the day, tho'. during the night the sky is so clear and cold that the stars glisten and you almost feel you can reach out and touch them.

JohnD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnD said...

Generally, if you leave them alone they then leave you alone. They are scavengers, tho' and hang around camp sites.

Dingo attacks are rare but known to occur.

JohnD said...

See the reply to Jim (above) - there's also West Australia's rabbit proof fence - 3,251km long lol!

JohnD said...

The State Barrier Fence of Western Australia, formerly known as the No. 1 Rabbit-proof Fence, the State Vermin Fence and the Emu Fence, is a pest-exclusion fence 3,251km long constructed between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests, from the east, out of Western Australian pastoral areas.

Dingos are a wonderful creature, but vicious - I once had a Dingo/Kelpie cross as a 'pet' (I think it just attached itself to me. You never "own" a dingo and one day it just took itself off - 'walkabout') Problem is they X-breed with feral dogs and then start hunting livestock in packs.