Wild Dog Information Wild Dog Information

 

Wild dogs (Canis Familiaris) including dingoes (Canis Familiaris Dingo) are one of the major pest animals of Australia. There are a myriad of impacts associated with wild dogs, including attacks on sheep and calves, predation on native species, the spreading of disease, threat to human safety, and the general loss of enjoyment of living on small acreage lifestyle blocks. There is also an opportunity loss where grazing opportunities are not accessed because of the fear of stock losses. This variety of impacts makes a single one size fits all regional, state, or national approach to wild dog management very complex.

Wild dogs will be a significant reservoir for the exotic disease rabies if it ever enters Australia. The presence of rabid wild dogs in the environment will add a very real degree of trepidation to a community that currently enjoys relative safety in pursuits such as camping, hiking and bushwalking.
 
The dingo is a primitive canid that is related to the wolf and the coyote. The dingo was not part of the ancestral fauna of Australia and, although its origins are not clear, it is thought to have arrived in Australia some 3500-4000 years ago.
European colonisation and the introduction of the domestic dog has lead to cross-breeding and hybridisation within the dingo population. As a result, hybrid dingoes and feral domestic species (commonly called wild dogs) are now present in most mainland areas of Australia. It is thought that most areas of Australia no longer have pure dingo bloodlines and that the major impact on sheep and cattle production is from hybrids and feral domestic ‘wild’ dogs.
 
Biology                                                                                                                                                           
 
A ‘wild dog’ is any free-ranging dog without an owner. This includes domestic dogs that are homeless or are free of human care, dingoes, and hybrids of the two. These dogs are declared pests under state legislation. Domestic dogs may also behave like wild dogs when they are unsupervised or unrestrained.
Wild dogs weigh between 8-38 Kg, depending on the breed of the parent dogs (dingoes weigh 12-15 Kg). Their coats can be yellow, black, white, brown or any variation or combination of these. Some wild dogs may have larger heads in proportion to their body size, and larger canine teeth than domestic dogs. Wild dogs can live for up to 12 years, although most live only 5-7 years.
 
Social Structure                                                                                                                                          
 
Wild dingoes in remote areas live in packs, often of 3-12 animals, with a dominant (alpha) male and female controlling breeding. Packs establish territories (home ranges) which do not usually overlap. The size of a territory seems to be directly related to the availability of food in the area. In pastoral areas where there are regular wild dog control programs and where hybridisation is prevalent, social structures may differ and packs may be less stable. These changes are not well documented or understood.
Wild dogs, particularly dingoes, visit the edge of their territory regularly. This checking of the boundaries is termed the dog’s ‘pad’ or ‘beat’. Knowing a wild dog’s beat helps identify the best place to conduct control measures.
 
Breeding
 
Wild dogs are often heard howling during the breeding season which for pure dingoes, occurs once a year, mostly between April and June. Hybrid dogs have two oestrus cycles each year, although they may not always successfully raise young in each cycle.
After a nine-week gestation, four to six pups are born in a den that provides protection form the elements and other animals. Dens may be in soft ground under rocks, logs or other debris, or in logs or other hollows. Pups are suckled for 4-6 weeks and weaned at four months.
Pups become independent of their parents when they are 2-12 months old, with those becoming independent at the later time having a higher rate of survival. Increased food supplied by people also enables more pups to survive to maturity.
 
Impacts                  
 
There are a number of negative or undesirable impacts associated with dingoes and other wild dogs. They are known predators of livestock and they can cause significant economic losses to pastoral production. They are also known to prey upon domestic livestock on rural blocks and can be a menace to tourists and staff at remote tourist resorts and national parks.
They can also have an impact on the survival of remnant populations of endangered fauna.
Ongoing population management is required to control these impacts, but at the same time, ensure the long-term persistence of pure bred dingoes in the wild. Feral domestic dogs and hybrids are potentially a lot more dangerous to humans and livestock and efforts are required to restrict the hybridisation process.
Wild dogs have significant impacts on agricultural production through predation of livestock. Throughout Australia, sheep are the most commonly attacked livestock followed by cattle and goats. Wild dogs are also implicated in the spread of disease such as hydatidosis in cattle and sheep, and heartworm and parvovirus in pet domestic dogs. Hydatidosis leads to the condemnation of offal from slaughtered abattoir cattle in affected areas and has the potential to cause significant economic losses.
 
Control Measures
 
Wild dogs prey on livestock causing significant impact on agricultural production. Methods of control include poisoning with Sodium Monofluoroacetate (1080) and Strychnine, trapping, shooting, exclusion fencing, aversion and use of livestock guarding animals.
 
Baiting
 
Lethal baiting is considered to be the most cost-effective control method currently available and is the only practical means for achieving population control in remote and inaccessible areas.
Poisoned baits are distributed either on the ground by hand or from the air in a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft.
Wild dogs are amongst the most susceptible species to the effects of 1080. Good baiting technique helps to minimise the risk to non-target species and maximise the effect on targeted wild dog population.
Baiting is best used in a strategic manner as part of a co-ordinated program designed to achieve sustained effective control
Ground baiting is used on rural properties or national parks and forestry estate that are accessible by road
Baiting should not be used in areas where there is an unacceptably high risk to humans and companion animals, such as urban/residential landscapes
Use of poisoned baits is restricted in areas where there is a high risk of poisoning domestic stock and wildlife
Timing and frequency of baiting depends on a number of variables including resources available, value and vulnerability of livestock, availability of alternative prey for wild dogs and season (weather, water availability, stage of dog breeding cycle).
Baiting of wild dogs can only be carried out under conditions set down in a specific permit issued by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) under Commonwealth legislation (Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 19940. 1080 must also be used in accordance with relevant State, Territory and other Commonwealth legislation.
Prepared and manufactured baits can only be obtained by through authorised government agencies.
 

Specified Minimum Distance for Ground Baiting
Neighbour Notifications
Warning Signs
Boundary fence – 5m
Habitation – 2km
Declared road – 50m
Town area – 5km
72 hours prior to baiting
All entry points
Kept for a minimum of 1 month after baiting.

 
 

Advantages of Baiting
Disadvantages of Baiting
·        Can be used over large areas
·        Relatively cheap
·        Can be made target specific by bait selection and placement
·        Canids most susceptible
1080 – humaneness unresolved, care needs to be taken for non-targes, no antidote/ treatment, relatively slow acting
1080-degraded naturally, doesn’t accumulate, low chance of secondary poisoning
Strychnine-bitter taste may cause bait shyness if overdosed
Strychnine-relatively quick acting
 

(Information taken from the QLD Government Pest Vertebrate Control booklet)
 
Trapping 
 
Traps are designed to hold live animals in a particular location and, because of this, trapped animals may be forced to endure stress from heat or predators. Traps must be checked regularly to ensure that animals are confined for a minimal length of time, and to ensure that animal welfare responsibilities are met.
As a general control technique, trapping is time consuming – a high level of attention to detail is required when setting traps, and regular monitoring of the trap site is also needed. It is, however, useful in situations such as:
·        Removing a small population from an urban situation where baiting or shooting cannot be used
·        Dealing with bait-shy animals
·        Capturing specimens to attach radio-tracking devices, or for other research.
 

Advantages of Trapping
Disadvantages of Trapping
Target specific by placement
High labour and skill requirements
Species specified by placement
Foot-hold- some animal welfare concerns
Non-targets can be released
Leg-hold-high level of animal welfare concerns; not recommended
Certain of control/capture
 

(Information taken from the QLD Government Pest Vertebrate Control booklet)
 
Exclusion Fencing
 
Good fences can reduce livestock predation. They are most effective when used with other methods of damage control such as baiting, trapping or livestock guard animals. However, fences cannot exclude all wild dogs and the larger the area, the more difficult it is.
A dog’s response to a fence depends on its experience and motivation. Some dogs eventually learn to climb higher, dig deeper, or take advantage of damaged fences to gain entry.
Conventional netting fences and electric fences are used to control stock and exclude animal pests. Most wild dogs readily pass over, under or through conventional livestock fences. The Dingo Barrier Fence, which is several thousand kilometres long, is an example of an effective conventional fence.
(Information taken from the QLD Government Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Website)
 

Advantages of Exclusion Fencing
Disadvantages of Exclusion Fencing
Consideredhumane
·        Expensive
·        Generally limited to small areas
·        Requires frequent maintenance

(Information taken from the QLD Government Pest Vertebrate Control booklet)
 
 
Shooting
 
Wild dogs are seldom seen during the day, and in areas subject to control work they are especially wary of humans. Shooting is therefore regarded as an opportunistic method of wild dog control.
 

Advantages of Shooting
Disadvantages of Shooting
Target specific
High labour and skill requirements
Certain of control
Ground-requires open terrain, can only be used over limited area
Regarded as humane if used correctly
Aerial-requires open terrain, requires high level of skill, potentially expensive for last few animals
Aerial-can be conducted over large areas
 
Can be used as “mop-up” technique
 

(Information taken from the QLD Government Pest Vertebrate Control booklet)
 
Guard Animals
 
Guard dogs are increasingly being used to protect livestock from wild dogs and foxes – particularly to protect valuable goats on small-scale enterprises. Guard dogs offer an alternative to pesticide control, a need that has been driven by the growing organic farming movement. Dog breeds such as the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd and the Maremma are used to bond with the flock, and then actively protect their social unit. Other species such as Llamas and Jenny Donkeys have similarly been used to protect stock from predators.
Lambing losses may be reduced by condensing the lambing period, selected breeds and individuals with strong mothering abilities, patrolling smaller lambing paddocks, shedding valuable lambing stock, and synchronising lambing with surrounding properties.
 

Advantages of Guard Animals
Disadvantages of Guard Animals
Considered humane
High cost of purchase
Guard animals can be bread and sold to landholders
·        Need care and attention
·        Need training

(Information taken from the QLD Government Pest Vertebrate Control booklet)
 


 

  1. Do all poisons result in a slow and painful death to whatever animal eats it?
    No. Different poisons work in different ways, and even the same poison can work differently in different species. Some poisons can kill animals quickly and painlessly, while others might be less humane. Some toxins (such as 1080, or sodium fluoroacetate) can appear to cause pain and distress when they actually do not. Some poisons are lethal to some animals and yet harmless to others. Ideally, the best poison is one that produces a quick, painless death to the intended (target) animal.

  2. Do animals that eat poisoned animals die too?
    Sometimes. This is known as ‘secondary poisoning’ and can happen, depending on a number of factors. These include: the type of poison, the way it works, how much was in the bait, how many baits the first animal ate, how many poisoned animals were eaten by the scavenger, which parts of the poisoned animal were eaten by the scavenger, and whether or not the scavenger is vulnerable to that poison. Some poisons have this secondary effect while others do not. In many cases, the poison breaks down in the dead animal so quickly that a secondary animal can safely eat it without ill effect. In other cases, poison concentrations can be high enough in the dead animal (which ate an excessive amount of poison before it died) that secondary poisoning might occur. In most cases, the ‘meat’ on a dead animal is unlikely to contain lethal amounts of poison. However, as a precaution, all poisoned animals should be handled carefully and not be eaten by humans or pets.

  3. Has 1080 stopped killing wild dogs?
    No. Scientific evidence confirms that 1080 is still an effective and efficient poison for killing a variety of pest animals. However, some environmental and practical factors mean that 1080 baits can sometimes fail to reduce wild dog populations. To kill an animal, the bait must first be eaten by a susceptible animal and then have enough poison in it to work. Several factors contribute to this, including the quality and quantity of the bait, weather conditions, and the presence of other animals likely to eat the bait first. If animals receive sub-lethal doses and then recover, they may be more wary of eating a bait a second time. The challenge is to kill enough wild dogs before baits lose their potency or are taken by other animals.

  4. Can pet dogs be poisoned by baits intended for wild dogs?
    Yes. Accidental poisoning of domestic animals is most likely to happen if they stray into baited areas and eat bait. Another way pet dogs can be poisoned is if poisoned wild dogs or foxes eat a bait, walk into a pet’s territory, and then vomit it up. Such vomitus is both attractive and potentially lethal to pet dogs.

  5. Do wild dogs refuse baits after they’ve tasted warm meat?
    No. Many wild dogs succumb to baiting programs despite having previously eaten freshly captured prey.

  6. Do wild dogs get bait-shy after taking a sub-lethal dose of 1080?
    Few studies have investigated this, but it could be reasonably expected that an animal that has eaten a sub-lethal dose (and felt sick) is less likely to eat another bait. Bait shyness may develop if a population is regularly exposed to sub-lethal doses of poisoned bait. This is one reason why baits typically contain more poison than that needed to kill an average individual animal.

  7. Can wild dogs become bait-shy, trap-shy and shoot-shy?
    Absolutely. Negative experiences of any kind can lead to shyness. To avoid this, best-practice principles should always be followed: baiting should be done in accordance with label instructions, traps should be set to avoid an animal escaping once caught, and a shot should only be fired when a quick and humane death is certain.