The spatial ecology and zoonoses of urban dingoes – a preliminary investigation

Dingoes (and hybrids) have traditionally been viewed as a livestock predation problem of rural areas, but in recent years dingoes have emerged as a human health and safety risk in urban areas. Urban dingoes often attack people and pets, are known to be reservoirs of zoonotic diseases and parasites, and can cause significant economic losses to many people and industries along the urban-agricultural interface. Despite this, very little is known about their general ecology in urban areas, including their home range sizes, activity patterns, habitat use, and their disease and parasite epidemiology. Consequently, the agencies responsible for pest animal management in urban areas continue to respond to requests for control and damage mitigation without sufficient information in the literature to guide and support their efforts. In the absence of scientific literature on urban dingoes, understanding the ecology of similar species may be useful to managers of urban dingoes. Urban foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and coyotes (Canis latrans) cause similar problems and present similar risks to urban dingoes in other parts of the world. Hence, this thesis reviews their home ranges, activity patterns, and habitat use in order to predict these same parameters for urban dingoes.

In order to test the predictions made from knowledge of urban foxes and coyotes, GPS collars were fitted to several urban dingoes to record their home range sizes, activity patterns, and habitat use. In addition to this, fresh faeces were collected and tested for the presence of zoonotic diseases and parasites. Results from the preliminary investigation show urban dingoes to have small home range sizes (mean 2.17km2), crepuscular activity patterns, and flexible habitat use. In essence, most urban dingoes occupied a small patch of either bushland or sugarcane/grassland and were most active at dawn and dusk. The only exceptions to this were an adult female caught during breeding season and a juvenile female captured during a dispersal event. Faecal analysis showed 57% (17 out of 30) of urban dingo scats to contain zoonoses, though this is probably an underestimate of the true prevalence of zoonoses in urban dingo populations. Zoonotic pathogens identified in scats include various hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, giardia, salmonella, campylobacter and coccidia. The results of this preliminary study indicate that the spatial ecology of urban dingoes is dissimilar to that of rural dingoes, and is similar to that of urban foxes and coyotes. In order to effectively manage dingoes in urban environments, the spatial ecology, zoonoses, and impacts of dingoes in urban areas need to be investigated in more detail. This can be achieved, in part, through investigations of seasonal home range size, activity patterns and habitat use, and further epidemiological studies. Purity related research, diet and food availability, and accurate density estimates of populations should supplement these studies.

Documents

The spatial ecology and zoonoses of urban dingoes - a preliminary investigation (3Mb PDF)

Secondary title School of Animal Studies
Author Benjamin Lee Allen
Thesis type Honours
Year 2006
Publisher The University of Queensland
Department School of Animal Studies
Pages 109 pp