Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Dingo Baiting Doesn’t Harm Wildlife

Dingo and wild dog control methods, such as poison-baiting, are not detrimental to wildlife and do not advantage predators in Australia’s beef cattle rangelands, according to research published in Frontiers in Zoology. “We found that fox and feral cat populations do not get out of control when you bait dingoes, and wildlife declines just don’t happen,” said Ben Allen, a University of Queensland PhD candidate.

“Some scientists and groups advocate the banning of dingo baiting in an effort to safeguard wildlife, believing that dingoes keep down the numbers of middle-sized predators, thereby protecting wildlife. Our research results from several large predator control experiments, the largest ever conducted in Australia, show current baiting programs in the rangelands do not lead to declines in wildlife.”

The findings contradict a University of Sydney study which found that dingoes help the survival of native animals in Central Australia by suppressing the number of feral cats and foxes (AS, November 2014, pp.24–27).

“Baiting dingoes had been predicted to harm wildlife populations by releasing fox and feral cat populations from the suppression of dingoes,” Allen continued. “This is a myth, and does not happen in reality.”

Instead, Mr Allen said, researchers found that all predator and wildlife populations fluctuated independently of dingo control programs in the cattle rangelands. “If lethal dingo control was harming wildlife, then we would expect to see less of them in places where dingoes were subjected to baiting,” he said. “We found that there was just as many, or more, wildlife in the places where we did bait dingoes.

“These results are reassuring about the ecological outcomes of predator control in our pastoral ecosystems.”

Research is also being carried out beyond the cattle rangelands. A Biosecurity NSW and University of New England team is investigating the responses of predators, prey and plants to dingo and wild dog control in “hot-spot” ecosystems in north-eastern NSW where there are wild dogs, foxes, feral cats, spotted-tailed quolls and other species.