Two highly-trained English Springer Spaniels will be visiting the Northern Rivers Region next week as a trial to locate fox dens in Arakwal National Park, near Byron Bay, and Broadwater National Park, north of Evans Head.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Pest Management Officer Lisa Wellman said that the dogs can be trained to search for pests such as foxes, cane toads, rabbits and cats.

“Using sniffer dogs is an efficient way to locate fox dens, which can then be fumigated,” Ms Wellman said.

“The dogs’ trainer, Stephen Austin, has 25 years experience with training sniffer dogs for a range of work, including quarantine and conservation activities.

“Gus and Katie have been trained to national and international standards. This ensures that they are target-specific and are safe to use in protected areas, such as national parks, where dogs are not permitted.

“On Wednesday, Stephen will be explaining to staff from across the region how the dogs can be used to assist in pest animal control work and will then be giving a demonstration in Arakwal National Park.

“On Thursday, Gus and Katie will help to locate fox dens in Broadwater National Park.

“The dogs may be used in ongoing pest animal control programs in the future. Bringing in the dogs prior to the shorebird breeding season would help to locate and monitor fox dens, with early detection affording some protection of the birds from foxes.

“Stephen Austin has trained dogs to locate feral animals in a penguin colony on Macquarie Island and worked on similar projects throughout the world.”

PICTURE: Stephen Austin with two of his sniffer dogs on Macquarie Island.