Australia over the years has unfortunately been plagued with numerous invasions of various plants and animals. These range from invasive grasses that can take over entire shires, tramp ants which are disrupting native ecosystems and causing havoc for society, to large animals causing destruction to our natural environments. Because of this, we have some of the strictest biosecurity laws in the world, with laws and best practice principles designed to mitigate further incursions and spread of these invasives. However, these biosecurity laws and best practice principles are only as good as the people who follow them, and today we are going to go into an overview of what that might mean for recreational hunters.

In the context of conservation, hunting, and even hiking, biosecurity refers to the proactive measures taken to prevent the introduction, spread, and establishments of invasive species that could pose a threat to Australia’s native plants, animals, ecosystems, agricultural land, and wider society. 

It’s here where Australian recreational hunters have a crucial role in biosecurity efforts, and by widespread volunteer but loud adoption of biosecurity best practice protocols, the Australian recreational hunting community can showcase we truly are conservationists. This would have many benefits. First and foremost, we do our part in protecting native Australia. But an important secondary effect would be showing politicians, landholders, and other environmental stakeholders that the community has matured and is ready to be considered a valid stakeholder.

First, the principle of "come clean, leave clean" underscores the importance of maintaining biosecurity when moving between hunting locations. Hunters must ensure their vehicles, equipment, and boots are free from soil, seeds, and organic matter before entering a new property. This minimises the risk of inadvertently introducing invasive species to pristine environments. No farmer wants a new weed on their property, if you bring invasive grass onto their land, this new incursion is going to cost them time and money to fix. It may cause their cattle to get sick, it may even ruin their entire property! A muddy vehicle can be a point of pride for a lot of off-roaders and hunters, however it’s a source of hurt for farmers and the environment. Clean your boots, gear, and car before entering a property and after you leave one.

Weed and seed movement is another critical aspect to consider. Hunters should be vigilant in preventing the spread of weeds by removing seeds from clothing and equipment before departing hunting areas. Similarly, they must avoid transporting seeds from one location to another, as seeds can easily hitchhike on clothing, vehicles, and pets, leading to the establishment of new weed populations. After every hunt, take the time to remove every piece of biological material from your boots and clothes. Ideally, on the property. This ensures that whatever is on the property, stays on the property, and you don’t bring foreign material to a previously clean site. This can be tedious, but it’s essential.

The transfer of animal diseases is a significant concern in biosecurity management. Hunters should adhere to strict hygiene practices when handling game to minimise the risk of disease transmission. Proper carcass disposal and sanitation measures are essential to prevent the spread of diseases such as Leptospirosis, JEV, and many other diseases among wildlife populations, livestock, and people.

Moreover, hunters should be mindful of the broader ecological impacts of their actions. The introduction of non-native animals can disrupt delicate ecosystems, outcompeting native species and altering habitat dynamics. By targeting invasive species such as feral pigs, foxes, more pigs, deer, cats, and other invasive species, hunters can help restore balance to ecosystems and protect native flora and fauna. Not only will it protect our natives, our agriculture sector benefits greatly from the removal of invasives. Sheep farmers delight at the sight of a dead fox, wheat farmers see any dead pig as a win, and just about everyone benefits from a feral cat being removed from the landscape.

Additionally, hunters must recognise the threat posed by tramp ants, including notorious species like fire ants. Soil movement can inadvertently spread these invasive ants, which have devastating effects on agricultural crops and native biodiversity. Avoiding the transport of soil between hunting sites is crucial to preventing the spread of tramp ants and other invasive pests.

In conclusion, Australian recreational hunters have a vital role to play in biosecurity efforts, mitigating the impacts of invasive species on our natural environment. By embracing responsible hunting practices, including biosecurity protocols, hunters can contribute to the preservation of Australia's unique biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.

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