Sheep farmers in the state's high country have taken aim at bureaucrats over fears the number of wild dog trappers could be reduced, allowing for wild dog numbers to grow to "uncontrollable" populations within years.
The government has remained tight-lipped over whether it plans to fill the vacancy of one wild dog trapper who recently retired, refusing to confirm it if planned to re-advertise the position.
Stock & Land understands it leaves just one full-time dog trapper and a casual worker to control the entire East Gippsland region.
"It's just going to be an apocalypse," Buchan grazier Aaron McCole said.
"It's been let go for too long... wild dogs are protected and the Greens are calling them dingoes to protect them, but we know most of those dogs are hybrids."
Mr McCole said he farms about three kilometres from the Buchan township and about five kilometres away from the nearby state forest.
He said he checked five kilometres of wild dog fences on his property daily, but the maintenance routine to ensure the integrity of the fence was "exhaustive".
"If I didn't have a dog fence, I wouldn't have any sheep," he said.
"I was managing a farm at 21 at Buchan and I'm 46 now and still having the same problem."
Mr McCole said there were two wild dog trappers in his area.
"To be honest, it's not enough because of how vast the landscape is," he said.
"The biggest problem is the [Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action], which is in charge of protecting our livestock, is the same department there to protect the wild dog.
"All these rules are put in place, and without adequate dog trappers and the government's support to protect our livestock from wild dogs, what hope do we have?"
Deer, wombats and other native wildlife cause constant faults in the fence line, which sometimes prevent the fence from being electrified and stable enough to withstand attacks from wild dogs.
Weed control is another aspect of managing the fence line that is time consuming.
"The dog fence only makes sheep farming viable, it doesn't stop them, because they still find a way in so there is constant maintenance on the property," he said.
Fine wool Merino sheep and cattle farmer Peter Sandy farms five kilometres north of Buchan said the mental anguish of wild dog attacks was "numbing".
"It's just the region we're in, wild dogs are a part of the landscape and occasionally they do come across our sheep, and when they do, it's a disaster," he said.
"They turn up, get into the sheep and kill them."
Two months ago Mr Sandy said wild dogs attacked a mob of sheep on a property he was leasing at Buchan.
"They were big, strong wethers and a couple of them were bitten on this occasion, but in the past we've lost more than 15 lambs in one go," he said.
"You look after your sheep, you have flies and worms to contend with, and when you turn up one morning and have dead sheep all over the place, it gets at your a bit."
Mr Sandy admits he has shot about 20 wild dogs on his property, but said the time and effort to effectively manage wild dogs needed to be a coordinated approach by private landowners and government.
"I would have gone more than 200 times looking for those 20 dogs," he said.
"It's just so hard to trap dogs on private property, because in the bush [on public land] you have forestry roads that the dogs travel, so it's easy to work out where to put traps."
In Victoria, baiting, trapping, shooting and exclusion fencing is used to control wild dog populations, along with aerial baiting in some designated parts of the state.
In October 2023, more than 2300 aerial baits were deployed in Gippsland across three zones including Angora and Cobungra, Bindi and Wonnangatta and Punchen Budweid.
The targetted area did not include Buchan.
Buchan South farmer Andrew Sutton runs Australian White sheep and Angus cows and calves and said it was hard to put a price tag on the damage wild dogs had cost him in two decades.
"It is getting worse because we're going to lose our resident dog trapper and have one for the whole district from the NSW border near Black Mountain all the way to Lakes Entrance," he said.
"One dog trapper has retired, another is a casual and I've been told that the department has to get rid of him, so ultimately we'll be down to one full-time dog trapper."
Mr Sutton estimated between 80-100 lambs are killed on his property by wild dogs each year.
The concerning figure means he is considering exiting out of breeding sheep altogether.
"It's clear we're not going to get any help from the department, so the quickest way to stop any monetary loss is to exit out of the sheep industry," Mr Sutton said.
He said the deaths of lambs had a "mental toll on farmers, the ewe and everyone in the area".
"We've struggled with wild dogs all our time despite having exclusion fencing around our property," he said.
"All exclusion fencing does is shift the problem around the corner, it doesn't actually solve the problem, and we've also tried Maremma dogs with very limited success.
"If we lose our dog trappers, we will eventually lose a lot of our wildlife too."
A Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action spokesperson said farmers were encouraged to use non-lethal control measures, including "protective on-farm animal husbandry practices" and guardian animals to reduce the effects of wild dog attacks.
"We're supporting farmers to apply best practice management, including the deployment of lethal and non-lethal control techniques such as baiting, fencing and the use of guardian animals," he said.
"The Wild Dog Program encompasses a number of resources and management activities, including wild dog management, community engagement, consultation, training, field days and wild dog management Workshops."
DEECA said wild dog management on public land only took place in strategic locations within a three-kilometre livestock protection buffer.
According to the government, wild dog attacks cause an average of 1900 sheep deaths annually, however, some farmers believe this figure could be significantly underreported.
"Sometimes dogs will chase an animal without killing it, which can stress the animal resulting in mismothering and the loss of production," the government said.