Wild dogs are a major economic and emotional cost to Upper Hunter farmers especially for sheep producers.
The regular sight of mauled and dead sheep has resulted in many wool growers exiting the industry as controlling the wild dogs become overwhelming and they opted instead to run cattle on traditional sheep country.
But in good news for producers the Hunter's unique Professional Wild Dog Controller Program has reached a milestone, removing more than 300 wild dogs in just under the three years since it was launched.
The program is supported by Hunter Local Land Services, the Hunter Valley Combined Wild Dog Association, Australia Wool Innovation and local land managers including Glencore, Bengalla, Yancoal, MACH Energy, Forestry NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Service and FeralScan.
The program was developed after increasing dog attacks were being reported in the Upper Hunter, particularly impacting outlying sheep properties which was affecting confidence in the local industry.
"Where we came from only a few years ago, there were a lot of isolated satellite sheep properties that were copping the brunt of a lot of wild dog activity," said Richard Ali.
"We investigated and reviewed all of our techniques with the local wild dog associations and producers and found as we were only using the approach of baiting, some dogs had evolved and adapted and were outsmarting us as older dogs knew to avoid the baits.
"These dogs became problem dogs and hotspots of wild dog predation emerged, normally in close proximity to these outlying sheep properties."
Now under the Professional Wild Dog Controller Program, three fulltime professional controllers are available to assist local producers target and remove these problem wild dogs across the Upper Hunter using a combination of strategic and reactive methods.
President of the Hunter Valley Combined Wild Dog Association, Frank Bragg said taking these killer dogs out of the system is helping to restore hope in the future of the sheep industry for local producers.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the outcomes of the program so far, and the huge gains we have made working strategically together to combat wild dogs in this region," said Frank.
"The confidence that this is giving people to have the option to get back into sheep, and not have to worry that they are going to have the big levels of predation that we had before.
"After this prolonged drought, there is now the opportunity to go back into sheep and I think it's of the utmost importance we continue this program and strengthen it with funding well into the future."
Scone producer Simon Deery said the program has been a saviour for his operation.
"We were pretty much getting a dog attack every six to eight weeks, and that was consistent until the problem dog was removed," said Simon.
"Trying to build sheep numbers and be diverse on the farm was proving very difficult because we just couldn't keep the numbers up and we couldn't afford to buy them to have them killed.
"The trapping has been unreal, the program has been a real saviour here, not to the point our numbers have increased massively yet, but the attacks have decreased massively and that's the biggest thing."
More than 40 dogs have been removed from the valley near Mr Deery's property, east of Scone in the last two years.
"That's a massive amount of dogs and it puts a lot of confidence in us as farmers to know there is help, and it's only a phone call away and the results that we are getting are accurate, and it really makes you feel like it is worth doing."
Producers must be a member of their local wild dog association to be eligible to participate in this program.
For the last 18 months all fees associated with the program have been waived, as part of Hunter Local Land Services drought support to local producers.
Landholders can report wild dog activity to Hunter Local Land Services Biosecurity team by calling 1300 795 299.