Peri-urban wild dogs – research snapshot and management recommendations

Wild dog impacts are felt in all regions of Australia, both regional and urban.

Local authorities throughout Australia have consistently identified the need to improve our understanding of wild dog ecology and develop control tools and strategies for managing peri-urban wild dogs. State and local governments need this information to assist in planning and coordinating control activities and develop extension materials.

Below is a summary of research findings and outputs from a four-year peri-urban wild dog control management project undertaken in north eastern Australia, funded through the Invasive Animals CRC and the Queensland Government, led by Dr Matt Gentle.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT [PDF 2.5MB]

PRINT A SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS [PDF 0.5MB]

Their impacts

Like in regional areas, peri-urban wild dogs commonly attack livestock, pets and wildlife, but rarely people. Dingoes/hybrid wild dogs (not domestic dogs) were primarily responsible for attacking koalas in peri-urban north Brisbane. Predation is at sufficient levels to threaten localised koala populations.

Koala and joey after wild dog attack – supplied by Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
RECOMMENDATION – wild dog control in peri-urban areas is warranted for conservation purposes and for the protection of domestic pets and livestock.

Diet

Small to medium-sized native mammals dominate diet with some threatened species (e.g. koalas) consumed. Human-sourced foods are uncommon, and limiting access to these foods is unlikely to influence the size or distribution of wild dog populations.

RECOMMENDATION – wild dog control in peri-urban areas is warranted for conservation purposes.

Movement

Peri-urban wild dogs exploit a wide variety of habitat types but home range sizes are relatively small, and can occupy unusual fragments of land (e.g. road verges only). Peri-urban wild dogs can be active at all times of day, but are most active at night. Peri-urban wild dogs can live within 1000 m of residential areas at all times.

RECOMMENDATION – the public needs to be aware that wild dogs are encroaching onto urban areas and to be cautious and vigilant when walking in bushland and with pets.

Disease and pathogens

Collection of wild dog faecal samples to assess for disease – supplied by Lana Harriot

Peri-urban wild dogs carry zoonotic pathogens, and could pose a significant risk to public and livestock health.

Helminth parasites are common in peri-urban wild dogs, most significantly Echinococcus granulosus (50.7% prevalence). Wild dogs shed infective E. granulosus eggs into the environment where ingestion by intermediate hosts (e.g. sheep, wallabies) or accidental hosts (e.g. humans) causes disease.

Infection in humans leads to hydatid disease, detected by the presence of fluid-filled hydatid cysts in the organs. Clinical signs of disease may be absent, leaving detection of infection difficult. This
can lead to significant health problems.

Hookworms (particularly Ancylostoma caninum) carried by peri-urban wild dogs present risk to humans, especially children, playing barefoot in playgrounds, parks, sporting fields and sandpits.

Infective hookworm larvae within the environment penetrates the skin of humans leading to the most common clinical symptom of cutaneous larva migrans where the larva migrate underneath the skin leaving a visible red and itchy line. It can also be associated
with diarrhoea and weight loss in humans.

Domestic dogs are capable of carrying any zoonotic pathogen that wild dogs harbour. However, a domestic dog needs to be exposed to the eggs or infected meat and therefore a domestic dog which is just walked around the block is less likely to be at risk.

RECOMMENDATION – the development of a best-practice guide to highlight the strategies, practices and personal protective equipment required to minimise the risks of pathogen transmission to people, livestock and pets.

Management practices

Peri-urban dog caught on camera – supplied by James Speed

Although restricted in their use, Canid Pest Ejectors (CPE) and PAPP baits can be used in peri-urban areas for wild dog management.

During a trial, researchers found that CPEs in coastal peri-urban sites were regularly visited and triggered by wild dogs, foxes and even domestic dogs

People did find and occasionally trigger CPEs on public lands. However, CPEs placed on private land were not interfered with by people or domestic dogs. Research has also found that the environmental degradation of PAPP is slower than 1080. Buried baits were found to degrade faster than surface-laid baits.

RECOMMENDATION – When undertaking control, appropriate signage and communication is required to avoid domestic dog poisoning.
During baiting campaigns, dog owners should avoid taking their pets into baited areas. Pest managers should retrieve any uneaten baits at the end of the baiting period.
Dog owners also need to restrain domestic and working dogs from PAPP baited areas for longer periods than with 1080. This means domestic dog owners should still remain cautious post PAPP baiting campaigns, as the baits can remain lethal for longer periods. So as extra protection, it is recommended to avoid letting your dog off-leash in known baiting areas at all times.
Future research should also assess and test the broadscale application of ejectors in suitable peri-urban environments. CPEs are effective in targeting wild dogs.

Watch our video, funded through the National Wild Dog Action Plan on peri-urban wild dog management practices on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Secondary title Peri-urban wild dogs in north-eastern Australia
Author Matt Gentle
Secondary Author Ben Allen, James Speed
Date October
Year 2017
Place published PestSmart
Institution Centre for Invasive Species Solutions
Documents Gentle, M., Allen, B.L., and Speed, J. (2017). Peri-urban wild dogs in north-eastern Australia: Ecology, Impacts and Management. PestSmart Toolkit publication, Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, Canberra, Australia. [PDF 2.5MB]