Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Domestic dogs are a bigger problem than cats for our native wildlife

Dogs only behind motor vehicles as cause of wildlife injuries and deaths.

A recent study by a University of Tasmania Masters student has found that dogs may be a more serious problem than cats for native wildlife in some circumstances.

Mr Holderness-Roddam’s Master’s thesis analysed the records of native wildlife presenting for care through veterinary practices and the Resource Management and Conservation Division of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) for cause of death and injury.

“The results were quite clear cut”, said Mr Holderness-Roddam. “Whilst the overwhelming number of wildlife injuries and deaths were attributed to motor vehicles (1,256), the next highest cause of injuries and death was recorded for dogs (238), with cats at 152.”

“This should not be seen as a ‘get out of jail card’ for cats though”, said Mr Holderness-Roddam. “They still account for a considerable amount of wildlife mortality, and they spread a nasty disease called toxoplasmosis which kills bandicoots.”

A second set of records, provided by the Australian Wildlife Health Centre - Wildlife Hospital at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria supported the Tasmanian findings. In that case dogs were reported as being responsible for 115 attacks on native wildlife and cats 79 attacks.

The types of areas where native wildlife is most likely to be at risk from domestic dogs are the urban and suburban bushland reserves, such as the Poimena Reserve in Austins Ferry and beaches when shorebirds are breeding or preparing for migration.

“Unfortunately many dog owners ignore the requirement to keep their dogs on leash. I frequently see dogs such as Jack Russell terriers being allowed to hunt through the bush by thoughtless owners.”

“The land managers for these areas, particularly local councils, need to take a stronger line with dog owners who choose to ignore the leash requirements. They also need to install more informative signs and provide fenced dog exercise areas with doggy gym equipment, water and poo bags”, said Mr Holderness-Roddam.

A full copy of the thesis is available at: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/12310/

Source: University of Tasmania