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Meet the man at the front line of efforts to protect native species

Ted Mitchell is the first person to admit that his job is not for the faint-hearted.

As council’s only Pest Management officer, he is responsible for controlling declared pests on council-owned land and helping to protect our area’s native species.

That involves everything from using cameras to monitor what numbers of wild dogs are at waterholes to setting controls and traps for feral pigs, which left unchecked would do significant damage to native vegetation and animals.

Mr Mitchell started with Ipswich City Council 30 years ago, initially as a slasher on tractors. He later moved to the pound, before becoming a pest management officer in 2003.

He said feral dogs and foxes caused significant concern in the community as they are known to attack poultry and prey on lambs, calves, or pets. But their biggest impact is on native species.

“They eat lots of native ground-dwelling birds, like the rare black breasted button quail. They also eat bandicoots, possums, and even black wallabies,” he said.

Caught on camera: A fox with a bandicoot in his mouth.

Above: A group of wild boars spotted at night.

Mr Mitchell said it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate pests, unless you start using biocontrol agents, but that would also harm people’s pet dogs and native fauna.

He said he understands why people don’t like the idea of killing pests, but he describes it as a “necessary evil” to protect Ipswich’s biodiversity.

Dealing with pests in a humane way is always a priority for Mr Mitchell, who also works closely with National Parks and Wildlife Queensland.

“An animal may be a declared pest, but there’s no reason to be cruel to it in its death,” Mr Mitchell said.

With more than a decade under his belt as council’s pest management officer, Mr Mitchell has also seen plenty of changes in the environment.

“There’s not as many animals around as previous years, because they’ve run out of feed and water and dams are drying up.” Mr Mitchell said.

“Years ago I would trap around 100 wild dogs a year, but that’s probably down to about two dozen a year now.”

“But those conditions are affecting the numbers of native animals as well, which means controlling pests is even more important.”

Mr Mitchell says that while the work he does would not suit everyone, he loves being out in the bush and getting plenty of fresh air.

“A lot of people couldn’t do my job, but I get claustrophobic so I couldn’t work in an office,” he said.

“It’s probably one of the most unique jobs in council.

“If I don’t do it, no one does it. And unless you control all those pest animals out there, they will eat everything.”

Above: Rabbits inside a rabbit-proof fence

Above: A wild pig

IPSWICH FIRST

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