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Why is it important to control wild dogs?
Wild dogs can cause death and injury to livestock which can cause substantial financial loss and animal welfare impacts. In some places, wild dogs can have severe impacts on wildlife (see FAQ: Wild dog impacts). Control techniques are targeted in order to control specific problem individuals or reduce populations to prevent impacts. Control activities rarely results in eradication of wild dog populations so ongoing control is usually necessary
Why do we use 1080 poison in Australia and where does it come from?
1080 is used for wild dog control because it is the most environmentally sensitive and target specific toxin available for wild dog management. It is a naturally occurring odorless compound which occurs in approximately 30 species of native Australian plants. 1080 is biodegradeable and although manufactured, it retains all of its natural characteristics including diluting to nothing in water, being consumed and broken down by bacteria and fungi into harmless compounds.
Does 1080 kill everything and how do we prevent poisoning other animals?
No. The dosage used for wild dog control is very low and therefore target specific. There is insufficient 1080 in a wild dog bait to kill most Australian fauna, which have varied levels of resistance to 1080 because it occurs naturally in Australian plants. Further target specificity can be achieved by using meat based baits, placing baits carefully and strategically, burying or hiding baits, tying them to known locations, and regulating minimum size of the baits used. State and territory regulations also manage the use and availability of 1080 baits to lower the risks to non-target species.
How does 1080 work in wild dogs?
1080 interferes with cellular energy production leading to a breakdown in the central nervous system. Disruption to the central nervous system leads to unconsciousness and is the reason that animals exhibit a range of visually disturbing signs of poisoning. Research has indicated that animals are unlikely to feel pain as a result of unconsciousness.
Does 1080 still work because we rarely, if ever, find the carcass of wild dogs after a baiting program?
1080 is still an effective and efficient poison for killing wild dogs. Due to the action of 1080 and the period it takes to affect cellular energy production, there is a lag period between ingestion and onset of poisoning. This means they can move considerable distance from where they have taken the bait to where they die. In addition, dogs can exhibit symptoms including uncontrollable running and photosensitivity which means they could end up anywhere, making it hard to find a carcass.
What happens to the poison in the dead animals and will it kill others if they eat the carcass?
The poison in dead animals is broken down rapidly as the body decomposes, leaving no residual poison in the environment. Poisoning of other animals is unlikely due to the very low dosage of 1080 used in wild dog baits. Most native scavengers that are likely to eat a dog carcass such as goannas and birds are less susceptible to 1080 due to their digestive system or adaptation to 1080 in the environment, and are not affected.
Do we have ANY evidence that wild dogs eat and are killed by 1080 baits?
Research across Australia has demonstrated that wild dogs regularly take 1080 baits and are killed. Evidence from first hand observations, radio collaring of individual dogs, remote camera surveys of dogs and baits, and the retrieval and testing of carcasses has clearly demonstrated that wild dogs will consume and are killed by 1080 baits. Baiting can reduce wild dog populations between 55% and over 90% (see Fleming & Ballard, 2014. An investigation of aerial baiting rates for strategic control of wild dogs).
Wild Dogs are predators not scavengers so why would they eat a bait?
Wild dogs are opportunistic predators that not only hunt a range of prey from mice to buffalo, but will also readily scavenge carcasses at any time throughout the year. Wild dogs will scavenge road kill, dead livestock, animals killed by natural causes, rubbish, and scraps left behind by fishermen and tourists. Scavenging behavior may be more prevalent at different stages of their biology (e.g. when feeding young pups) and can be dependant on seasonal conditions (e.g. in drought).
Which baits work best for wild dog control, meat baits or manufactured baits?
Manufactured and fresh or dried meat baits can be equally effective at reducing wild dog numbers and their impacts. No one bait type or method is universally superior to another. However having a range of different types of baits gives greater flexibility when delivering a baiting program. For example, manufactured baits could be more effective in summer when fresh meat baits may be susceptible to flystrike. Bait uptake varies with location and season and different bait types should be tried to see which is more effective at that point in time.
How long are baits active in the paddock?
This can be highly variable and can depend on seasonal conditions and the landscape where the baits will be applied. It will also depend on how the baits are put out as a buried bait will usually lose its toxicity before a surface laid bait. For example, buried baits laid in summer in hot, humid areas may only last up to 3 days because they rot and degrade rapidly. Surface laid baits can last many months in the environment under dry conditions, but most baits will have been eaten or lost their effectiveness before this time. Care must be taken in dry desert or cold environments because they can last much longer as they dry out or don’t degrade. As a precaution, working dogs should be muzzled when taken into a paddock that has previously been baited.
How much rain does it take to render baits in-effective?
It is too variable to put a limit on the time that baits remain toxic after rain. Several factors affect this including the amount of rain, the condition of the bait, time of year and the bait type. Although moist environmental conditions do reduce the longevity of toxic baits, rain is certainly no guarantee that baits are no longer toxic. As a precaution, working dogs should be muzzled when taken into a paddock that has previously been baited.
Do wild dogs become bait shy after eating sub lethal baits?
There is no evidence that wild dogs become bait shy at all after eating 1080 baits. Given the time taken for 1080 to act, it is unlikely that a wild dog will associate with feeling sick or disorientated with a bait that it consumed hours earlier. In any population of wild dogs, there are individuals that will take baits and others that will not. This is why wild dog control programs need to incorporate a range of techniques such as trapping, shooting, baiting and exclusion. Using a variety of bait types may improve the success of baiting programs.
Can wild dogs learn to avoid control?
Negative experiences of any kind can lead to avoidance. In order to limit avoidance, best-practice principles should always be followed: traps should be set to maximize the chances of a clean catch and to avoid an animal escaping once caught, and a shot should only be fired when a quick and humane death is certain.
Can pet dogs be poisoned by baits intended for wild dogs?
Yes. All dogs, domestic or otherwise are susceptible to the 1080 dose in a wild dog bait. State regulations and usage requirements are there to minimize the risk to domestic dogs. A range of notifications and permissions are needed prior to delivering a wild dog control program. The majority of accidental poisonings of domestic dogs occur because they are roaming and enter areas where baiting programs have taken place such as farm lands or forests. It is the responsibility of the owner of the pet dog to keep it safe.
Do birds carry baits away?
Birds may take baits but they are unlikely to be affected by them due to their resistance and digestive systems. They will rarely eat the whole bait and usually drop it nearby. It would be unusual for a bird to carry a bait very far. Regulations dictate the minimum distance baits can be laid near a dwelling in order to minimize this risk. Rural property owners should avoid placing baits close to dwellings or farm infrastructure where working dogs are likely to be used. In some cases, birds (e.g. currawongs, crows, eagles, and kites) can have impacts on control programs by removing baits aimed at wild dogs rendering the program less effective. Interference from birds can usually be avoided by burying baits, tying baits, hiding them in places where birds are less likely to see them, or putting baits out at dusk or after dark when they are less likely to find them.
Can baits be used safely to avoid baiting working or pet dogs?
Current best practice baiting techniques should be adopted to minimize the risks to working and pet dogs. Practices such as burying or tying baits to known locations will assist landholders to know where baits are so they can avoid taking working dogs into these locations. As a precaution, working dogs should be muzzled when taken into a paddock that has previously been baited. A range of muzzles are available online and in stores- they are cheap and effective and are the only way to ensure dogs will not take bait.
Where do wild dogs live?
Almost all habitats in Australia are suitable for wild dogs, and they do not see fence lines or any difference between public and private land. Wild dogs can live in all sorts of habitats, including bushland, coastal zones, pastoral grazing and cropping areas, sandy and stony deserts, alpine and in urban residential areas. They are often found in places where they were thought to be absent, and in some cases are frequently seen but not recognised as a wild dog. The vast majority of Australia’s wild dogs do not live in or come from parks and reserves.
Do wild dogs have home ranges and how large are they?
All wild dogs have a home range. This is the area where wild dogs forage, take shelter, mate, raise offspring and spend most of their life. The size can vary from hectares to many square kilometres and will vary depending on the landscape and the availability of resources. In higher production areas where resources are more readily available, wild dog home ranges are generally smaller. In the suburbs for example, they might spend their whole life within a few hectares in comparison with desert environments where home ranges may be quite large due to limiting resources.
How often do they travel around these home ranges?
Wild dogs regularly traverse their home ranges but we are unsure about how often this occurs. Some research suggests it might be monthly, weekly, or even every few days. Different individuals are likely to exhibit different territorial behaviour and utilise their home ranges differently depending on seasonal conditions and breeding cycle.
Do they use certain areas of their home ranges more than others?
Yes. Wild dogs favour certain parts of their home range according to the landscape and breeding cycle, for example, water points, rubbish tips, and den sites. Carcasses can act as focal points with increased wild dog activity at various times of the year.
What features of the landscape do dogs use as travel routes?
Wild dogs usually move along natural features within the landscape that provide the easiest pathway. Their preferred travel routes will depend on the local environment, the time of year, and other local factors such as available corridors- ridges, dry creek beds and watercourses, tree lines, sandy edges around Spinifex, stock routes, property roads, 4WD tracks, fire trails, bushwalking tracks, powerline easements and railway lines.
How far can wild dogs move?
Most of the time, wild dogs remain within their home range. Individuals can however sometimes explore outside of their home range before returning or can disperse large distances relatively quickly. It is not fully understood why they undertake these long distance movements or why they settle in certain areas. Research has shown that they can move up to 560kms in 30 days in rangeland environments and up to 75kms in a week in forested environments on the Great Dividing Range.
How do they mark their home range and communicate?
Wild dogs use scent in the form of urine and faeces, visual signs such as scratchings, and a range of vocalisations such as howling to communicate with other dogs. Wild dogs have an acute sense of smell, and studies have shown they can detect chemicals at levels as low as a few parts per billion. Trained sniffer dogs are widely used throughout the world because of this ability. This remarkable sense of smell is an essential factor to consider when controlling wild dogs.
Where am I likely to see wild dog sign on my property?
Wild dogs will mark their home ranges in areas where their scent is likely to be encountered by as many other individual wild dogs as possible, for example, at the junctions of 4WD tracks or property trails, along animal pads, and around water points. It is common for wild dogs to mark their presence by urinating, defecating and scratching on or near elevated objects such as on tussocks and rocks or on the upwind side of tracks.
Do wild dogs kill other dogs?
Wild dogs will defend their home range and can kill other dogs including domestic dogs that intrude. Wild dogs will also leave their home range to kill other dogs such as domestic pets on occasion. This may occur because they see the domestic dog as a food source or as a result of aggression during the breeding season.
Wild dogs cause losses to producers of livestock, particularly sheep, goats and calves.
Aerial baiting is undertaken for strategic control of wild dog numbers in some parts of the Eastern Division of NSW. Two aerial bait distribution rates, 10 baits km-1 and 40 baits km-1, are currently allowed there under permit. To test the mortality rate (efficacy) of both rates, 132 wild dogs were trapped prior to the annual aerial distribution of baits during 2007–2013, and fitted with tracking collars. These were later retrieved to download stored GPS movement data. Of the dogs, 117 were included in the trials, 102 were in locations where aerial baiting transects were flown and 15 in areas where aerial baiting did not occur.
90.6% of collared wild dogs exposed to 40 baits km-1 died, whereas only 55.3% of those exposed to 10 baits km-1 died. No unexposed dogs died during the same period.
Aerial baiting from helicopters to achieve strategic control of wild dogs in the Eastern Division of NSW and similar regions should be undertaken at rates approaching 40 baits km-1.
Final Report to Biosecurity NSW, Local Land Services and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
An investigation of aerial baiting rates
for strategic control of wild dogs:
Fleming, P. and Ballard, G. An investigation of aerial baiting rates for strategic control of wild dogs: Final report to Biosecurity NSW, Local Land Services and Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. First published February 2014
Australian Wool Innovation, Invasive Animals CRC, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service [Cover image: GPS movement data for two collared wild dogs, indicating their point of death after aerial baiting and the terrain in which they lived: map and photos Guy Ballard]
This report details the outcomes of a series of trials to determine the efficacy of aerial baiting for wild dogs at two bait distribution rates, 10 baits per kilometre of flown transect and 40 baits km-1 and to determine if either rate achieved a minimum efficacy of 70%.
• Wild dogs cause losses to producers of livestock, particularly sheep, goats and calves. • Aerial baiting is undertaken for strategic control of wild dog numbers in some parts of the Eastern Division of NSW.
• Two aerial bait distribution rates, 10 baits km-1 and 40 baits km-1, are currently allowed there under permit.
• To test the mortality rate (efficacy) of both rates, 132 wild dogs were trapped prior to the annual aerial distribution of baits during 2007–2013, and fitted with tracking collars. These were later retrieved to download stored GPS movement data. Of the dogs, 117 were included in the trials, 102 were in locations where aerial baiting transects were flown and 15 in areas where aerial baiting did not occur.
• 90.6% of collared wild dogs exposed to 40 baits km-1 died, whereas only 55.3% of those exposed to 10 baits km-1 died. No unexposed dogs died during the same period.
Aerial baiting from helicopters to achieve strategic control of wild dogs in the Eastern Division of NSW and similar regions should be undertaken at rates approaching 40 baits km-1 .
Where wild dogs co-occur with livestock they cause losses to agricultural production, particularly to sheep, goats and calves. Therefore, the control of wild dogs on all lands in NSW is mandated under the Local Land Services Act 2013 (previously under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998). Control is enabled through a number of technologies including aerial baiting. In eastern NSW, aerial baiting for strategic control of wild dogs involves the distribution of meat baits in inaccessible wild dog-inhabited terrain, from helicopters flown slowly at low altitudes along preapproved transects. The objective is to place the baits as accurately as possible in locations that are chosen to maximise the opportunity for wild dogs to find and consume them. A concurrent aim is to minimise uptake by non- target animals, which otherwise reduces efficiency. While ostensibly expensive, aerial baiting is seen by proponents as a cost-efficient means of effectively reducing wild dog attacks on livestock.
Aerial baiting for control of wild dogs in north eastern NSW was first trialled in 1957-8 by the Barnard River Dingo Destruction Association, with CSIRO assistance (Barnard River Wild Dog Control Association records; B. Moore [Secretary] pers. comm. 2010). A fixed wing aircraft was used to distribute small baits containing strychnine and the results were inconclusive (F. Fenner 1958, unpublished internal report to CSIRO). Aerial baiting using matchbox-sized meat baits rolled in a solution of sodium fluoroacetate (compound 1080) (Korn and Livanos 1986) commenced across wild dog affected areas of north eastern NSW between 1964 and 1967. An average rate of 31.1 baits km-1 over 241 km of transect was reported for 1964 in the Yarrowitch Dingo Destruction Association (C. Young 1984, unpublished records of Yarrowitch Wild Dog Control Association).
No formal testing of different aerial baiting rates was undertaken at that time but measurements taken at two 1984 aerial drops by David Robinson and Peter Fleming of the then Department of Agriculture showed baiting rates of between 12 and 120 baits km-1, with average rate of 35 baits km-1 over 145 km of transect on one site. The average bait densities were 20 and 35 baits km2 for the two sites. Following review in 1985 (Saunders et al. 1985, unpublished report), only helicopters were permitted for aerial baiting of wild dogs in the Eastern Division of NSW and the maximum permitted rate was 40 baits km-1. The only previous test of efficacy was undertaken by Fleming et al. (1996) at the nominal rate of 40 baits km-1 (average bait rate applied in the efficacy study was 37 baits km-1).
Following the release of the APVMA’s 1080 Review (2008) the maximum allowable linear baiting rate for aerial application of 1080-injected meat baits for wild dog control was reduced to 10 baits km-1 of transect. However, the effectiveness of 10 baits km-1 in reducing abundance of the target species, wild dogs, and associated non-targets, red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), has never been
Data from the Armidale Rural lands Protection Board (Harden 2005, unpublished report; Harden, Fleming, Ballard and Moore, unpublished data) shows that there is a negative relationship between the level of control (as expressed by amount of 1080 used annually for controlling wild dogs) and reported livestock attacks by wild dogs (Fig. 1).
Previous research (Fleming et al. 1996) showed that indices of wild dog abundance were lowered by between 69 and 85% when aerial baiting at a nominal 40 baits km-1 was applied in north eastern NSW sites that were typical of those baited annually. Other research (Claridge and Mills 2007; Kortner 2007) has shown that populations of non-target animals (spotted-tailed quolls, Dasyurus maculatus maculatus) were not adversely affected by aerial baiting at rates of 40 (or 10) baits km-1.
Fig.1. Relationship between quantity of aerially-distributed baits for wild dog control and the number of properties reporting attacks of livestock by wild dogs in the Armidale region between 1990 and 2005 (Data from R Harden, Brian Ferris and New England LHPA)The equation is highly significant and a good fit to the data ( y = - 0.7281x + 84.863, P<0.001, r2=0.72).
Approaches by farmer groups to APVMA indicated that, on the basis of research and farmer experience since 1965, the higher rate of 40 baits per linear kilometre was still required and supported research to investigate the most appropriate rates. The APVMA agreed to the conduct of this research and issued an interim permit (Permit 12088) that allowed the continuation of bait rates up to and including 40 baits km-1, in those Livestock Health and Pest Authority districts in New South Wales that had previously used higher rates than 10 baits per kilometre.
As a condition of AVPMA Permit 12088, research into the efficacy of bait rates was required. The Vertebrate Pest Research Unit of NSW Department of Primary Industries, after review by NSW DPI biometricians and external reviewers, proposed a wide ranging research program to determine the efficacy of a range of bait rates (10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 baits per kilometre).
However, after review by AVPMA, it was agreed that the original proposal be split such that the determination the efficacy of the two aerial baiting rates approved either under the AVPMA guidelines or the special permit 12088, i.e., 10 and 40 baits per kilometre, should be undertaken as first priority, subject to funding availability. The project received funding from Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and is the subject of this report.
The primary aim of this work was to investigate the mortality of wild dogs exposed to zero, 10 and 40 standard 1080 meat baits per kilometre of flown transect. Registration of new and existing 1080 products with APVMA has required the demonstration of ~70% reduction in known numbers of target animals, population estimates or population indices. Therefore, the second aim was to determine whether either or both of these rates achieved 70% field mortality as required by APVMA.
Efficacy of currently permitted aerial baiting rates for wild dog control
Objective: Determine the mortality rates (efficacy) among wild dogs exposed to aerial baiting using ~250g, 1080-injected, boneless red meat baits distributed from helicopters at rates of 10 and 40 baits per kilometre of flown baiting transect. Mortality rates were to be contrasted with those of wild dogs that were not exposed to aerial baiting during the same period.
Previous work in north eastern NSW (Fleming et al. 1996) relied on changes in indices to determine efficacy of aerial baiting. However, the relationship of the indices to real wild dog numbers was unknown so better methods were required to estimate proportional mortality. Pilot trials undertaken between 2007 and 2010 tested the technical feasibility of using GPS/satellite/ VHF radio collars fitted to wild dogs to assess natural mortality and that caused by aerial baiting and other control methods. This technology was successful, with the fates of the majority of wild dogs being known over the period of collaring. The collar technology was therefore used as the primary aerial bait rate assessment method for the full program.
Alternative means of estimating proportional reductions in population indices, camera traps (Meek et al. 2012) and sandpads (e.g., Engeman 2005), were also tested for suitability in the local environments. Although well established as a means of estimating changes in abundance over short time frames, sand plots were found to be unreliable in the district because wet weather often occurred either immediately before and/or after aerial baiting, precluding their use. Camera trapping was initially proposed as an alternative indexing method, but subsequent testing with known events (Ballard et al. in press) showed that the detection probability of camera traps is variable and requires definition before it can be used for population estimation (this is subject of ongoing work).
The pilot trials also informed the spatial design by providing preliminary descriptions of wild dog home range size and range use, which assisted with determining the scale and locations of suitably sized sites. Importantly, the initial trials showed that the exposure of individual dogs to aerial bait lines could not be predicted by their point of capture because dog movements through their home range was not uniform and changed over time.
Experimental design elements and limitations
Total randomisation could not be achieved because of: the legal obligations of landholders to control dogs if they occur on their lands; ethical considerations about livestock welfare and the understandable reluctance of landholders to expose their sheep to attack by wild dogs; permit and policy constraints on where 40 baits per kilometre can be applied; and landscape differences within the zone where aerial baiting occurs in NSW. Therefore, a quasi-experimental design (see Hone 2007), where the treatments (0, 10 and 40 baits km-1) were imposed nonrandomly, but the movements of wild dogs in relation to the treatments was not pre-allocated or known. Such a design provides strong inference and is the best possible given the constraints. The limitation in interpretation is that the results can only be generalised from the study region to similar areas in south eastern Australia.
Technology required for efficacy determination
The primary source of data was GPS-logging collars affixed to free-ranging dogs that were trapped, collared and released back into their home range prior to aerial baiting. Wild dogs were captured with soft-jawed foothold traps (Orange Animal Ethics approval ORA 09/006; Fig. 2) and each one fitted with a GPS/ satellite/ VHF radiocollar manufactured to specification by SIRTRACK. The collars had release mechanisms timed to activate several months after aerial baiting and the VHF signal changed when the collar was stationary for >24 hours, indicating death of the animal or drop-off of collar.
Fig. 2. Guy Ballard photographs a wild dog, fitted with a GPS/ VHF/ ARGOS collar is held on a restraint board for handling, prior to release. Paul Meek holds a hessian sack that was used to cover the dog’s head to reduce its stress during handling.
Collars regularly logged and stored GPS locations on board (either hourly or at 30 min intervals when satellite positions were optimal) and uploaded snapshot data to Argos satellites on a preprogrammed schedule (usually weekly). The VHF radio signal was used to indicate whether they were dead or alive and then to locate dogs and collars on the ground for retrieval. Argos data enabled likely dead dogs or dropped collars to be identified (from lack of movement between uploads) and the most recent points were used to direct searches for VHF signals, which are line-of sight in nature and require closer proximity (<1 km) for detection.
The individual dog provided the experimental unit and efficacy was binary, measured as the proportion of collared dogs that was exposed to baiting and subsequently died. Exposure was defined as the individual dog crossing or moving along one or more baiting transects in the two weeks immediately following the aerial baiting program. This allowed a direct comparison of mortality rate for exposed animals at the two rates, independent of overall bait density. Individual dogs were considered to be unexposed if they did not cross or walk along a baited transect during that time or, for those purposely collared where aerial baiting did not occur, for the period from the date of the first aerial baiting until two weeks after the last baiting at the sites with collared dogs. This was unavoidable but meant that the dogs that were purposely unexposed had potentially longer in which to succumb to other causes; however, none of these dogs died during that test period.
Replication was achieved by collaring more dogs. Simulations by NSW DPI biometricians using movement data and mortalities from the pilot program and reductions in index or abundance achieved in previous research (Thomson 1986; Fleming et al. 1996; Fleming et al. 2001), that is, when expected mortality rates are 50% or higher, indicated a minimum sample size of 90 collared dogs over three years (including ~15 nil-treatment animals).
Aerial baiting procedures
The treatments were applied in approved aerial baiting programs in north eastern NSW from 2007 to 2013, with major effort being invested in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Aerial baiting occurs on predetermined transects that have been mapped and approved by delegates for the Minister of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage. Baits are prepared by cutting boneless red meat into fist-sized chunks ~250 g in size and injecting them with 6mg of 1080 in 0.2 mL of standard solution, according to the Pest Control Order for control of wild dogs and relevant permits. Baits are loaded into a helicopter and distributed along the transects with GPS direction and buffering to prevent misdistribution. Baitings monitored during these trials were conducted by local Wild Dog Control Associations, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities. Aerial baiting transects varied between years according to management needs (the 2013 distribution is shown in Fig. 3, which also shows the location of study sites that year).
After aerial baiting, at either 10 baits km-1 flown or 40 baits km-1 flown transect, weekly data from ARGOS satellites were consulted and dogs were tracked on the ground using the VHF signal. Where GPS locations did not move between weekly updates or where the VHF collar emitting dead signals, searches for collars were made as soon as possible to retrieve collars and, when dogs were recently dead, their stomach and intestines were examined for baits or signs of the blue dye injected with the toxin, which confirmed ingestion of one or more baits. On collection of the collars, positional data were downloaded and the data mapped, as were the track logs of the baiting helicopters. The GPS data from retrieved collars were overlaid on the aerial baiting route track logs from the helicopters in GIS and those that crossed or walked along a transect within two weeks of the aerial baiting time and date were deemed to be exposed.
The proportion of dogs that were potentially exposed to baits at each rate and those that weren’t exposed was determined from the maps. The mortality (and survival) of dogs exposed to the two baiting rates and unexposed dogs were then calculated.
Fig. 3. Field sites where the fates of wild dogs were tracked during 2013. Aerial baiting transects undertaken by land managers are shown by the yellow lines. National Parks and Wildlife Service tenure (pale green shading) was baited at 10 baits km-1 and elsewhere at 40 baits km-1. (Site 3 was chosen because it was well away from aerial baiting programs and assured that dogs would not be exposed).
The differences in mortality of wild dogs exposed to each rate and the nil-treatment animals were contrasted. Because the variance across samples was likely heterogeneous, Welch's ttests (Welch 1947), which uses unpooled variance and degrees of freedom calculated with the Welch-Satterthwaite equation, were used to contrast mortality differences between the two aerial bait rates and the unbaited control. It was logical to expect a greater mortality from the higher aerial baiting rate, implying one-tailed tests were appropriate, but both treatments were expected to kill dogs so the direction of potential difference from the nil-treatment was negative for both.
The baiting rate of 10 baits km-1 could also have been equally as efficacious as 40 baits km-1 , which was one possible outcome, and so two-tailed tests were used.
Trapping and sample sizes
Trapping to obtain sufficient wild dogs prior to annual aerial baiting programs was time consuming and subject to weather interruptions. For example, for assessment of aerial baiting in 2011, trapping commenced in November 2010 and for 2012 it commenced in January 2012 and in December 2012 for assessment of the 2013 aerial baiting. After perusal of GPS data for wild dogs and aerial baiting transects from 2007–2010, we included additional wild dogs to maximise replication (Tables 1 and 2).
Table 1. Sample sizes of wild dogs treated in north eastern NSW with aerial baiting at two currently permitted rates, 10 and 40 baits km-1. “Lost” represents collars that were active at the time of baiting program but could not be retrieved because of VHF signal failure, ARGOS signal failure or inaccessibility of terrain.
Over the duration of the pilot trials and full trials, 132 wild dogs were trapped and fitted with GPS collars. Of these, some (n = 15) were not available for inclusion in the aerial bait rate trials because tracking did not coincide with baiting periods or because they died prior to the aerial baiting programs. These latter dogs died from natural causes or were killed by shooting trapping or ground baiting by public and private land managers. . Some collars were not recovered (Table 1), either due to equipment malfunctions or harsh environmental conditions, e.g., flash flooding in rugged gorge country. Subsequently, the minimum required sample was exceeded, with 117 wild dogs available for inclusion in the trials and all bait rates had >30 representative dogs.
Individual identification of wild dogs from camera trap images at one of the sites (Site 2, Fig. 1), indicated that 90% of dogs photographed were trapped and fitted with collars in 2012. This substantial proportion led us to assume that our captured sample was representative of the populations of wild dogs in the study sites.
Aerial baiting rate efficacy
In the main trials of 2011–2013, fifteen dogs were trapped and released where they would not be exposed to aerial baiting and 102 wild dogs were trapped and released into areas where they would potentially be exposed to the aerial baiting programs in April-May. As a consequence, some wild dogs were potentially exposed to both baiting rates and some were unexposed because they were not in a baited area while viable baits were available (e.g., one moved 90 km away). However, examination of GIS data revealed that only wild dogs that were exposed to aerial baiting transects died during the assessment periods (Table 2).
Although aided by ARGOS positions and VHF signals, collar recovery took many months and required reconnaissance flights with helicopters for the remaining few each year. Every effort was made to recover collars, including the donning of a wetsuit to retrieve two collars from deep streams. Even so, 11 collars could not be recovered because of release failure, VHF signal failure, ARGOS upload failure, flash flooding (one collar was tracked from ARGOS data and aircraft to a gully, but a flash flood through the gully occurred before the collar could be retrieved) or inaccessibility of terrain.
Table 2. Mortality of collared wild dogs in north eastern NSW exposed to aerial baiting at two currently permitted rates, 10 and 40 baits km-1, by cohort. “Lost” represents collars were active at the time of baiting program but could not be retrieved because of equipment failure or inaccessibility of terrain.
The mortality of wild dogs (Table 2) did not differ between time periods for either those wild dogs exposed to 10 baits km-1 (? 2 = 2.75, dof= 4, not significant) or those exposed to 40 baits km-1(? 2 = 1.59, dof= 3, not significant).
Table 3. Overall mortality rates and mean difference in proportional mortality from nil-treatment (D) for collared wild dogs in north eastern NSW exposed to aerial baiting at two currently permitted rates, 10 and 40 baits km-1, during 2007-2013.
Overall, aerial baiting at 10 baits km-1 did not achieve the APVMA requisite 70% mortality, and the highest annual mortality recorded was 2/3 of the collared dogs. However, ~90% of wild dogs fitted with collars and exposed to 40 baits km-1 were killed (Tables 2 and 3).
The efficacy of aerial baiting conducted at 40 baits km-1 was highly significantly greater than that achieved with 10 baits km-1 (Table 3).
Discussion With the exception of 2011, when only 4 dogs were exposed to aerial baiting at 40 baits km-1 (Table 2), neither aerial bait rate killed all collared wild dogs that were exposed to aerially baited transects. Baiting at 40 baits km-1 was most reliable and efficacious, always achieving a proportional mortality of > 0.7 and achieving overall efficacy >0.9. This was better than baiting at 10 baits km-1, which never achieved a proportional mortality of 0.7, instead killing just over half of the dogs exposed to it. Overall, the efficacy of the 10km-1 rate was unacceptably low for a strategic technique and cannot be considered as “control”.
There are a number of likely reasons for lower efficacy of aerial baiting at 10 baits km-1. There is considerable competition for baits in the region from conspecifics, red foxes and feral pigs, and to some degree feral cats and this must be accounted for when deciding on bait quantities, transect routes and baiting rates. Some dogs, both from 10 and 40 baits km-1 sites, were recovered with multiple (2–11) baits in their stomach Some contemporaneous studies (Ballard and Fleming, unpublished data) indicate that foxes and birds, particularly corvids, can consume up to 100% of baits intended for dogs. Despite birds being unaffected (McIlroy 1986), this has obvious and significant implications on effectiveness for aerial baiting programs for wild dogs. To maximise the efficacy of control programs, baiting rates, overall bait quantity and transect routes must account for baits that will be consumed by target animals, by other affected vertebrate pests and by unaffected corvids and feral pigs Fleming et al. (1996) showed that wild dog population indices returned to parity between baitings and that repopulation was observed to be both by recruitment and immigration. In the current trials, we observed both pups and new animals on camera following baiting each year, indicating that populations were not extirpated from the region. Populations of wild dogs at treatment sites have been exposed to aerial baiting rates and on-ground control for >45 years but current and past control has not eradicated wild dogs. As well as immigration from adjacent unbaited areas, or otherwise relatively under-controlled areas, survivors at treated sites ensure wild dog populations persist. In fact, consistent social patterns observed in some groups of dogs, via camera traps, suggested that some individuals would always be at relatively low risk of exposure from annual baiting events, because they consistently walked behind their conspecifics along trails. The lower mortality achieved at the 10 baits km-1 rate has resulted in a patchwork of treatment efficacies and remaining wild dog population sizes in the controlled region. It is likely that current livestock predation problems (New England Livestock Health and Pests Authority, unpublished predation records 2011–2013) are in part caused by changes in land tenure and policy application since 1987, as well as reduced aerial baiting efficacy in lands where a maximum of 10 baits km-1 has been mandated. Other factors such as enterprise substitution and change in agricultural land use have also likely affected control efficiency and distribution, in turn increasing the likelihood of wild dog predation, particularly to small livestock.
Spotted tailed quolls persist in the study area (24 individuals were captured and released at one of the wild dog study sites in autumn and winter of 2013 in a concurrent project) and it is likely that the population benefited from reductions in wild dog, red fox and feral cat numbers from the aerial baiting
Conclusions and recommendations
To achieve efficacious control of wild dogs, aerial baiting from helicopters in the Eastern Division of NSW and similar regions elsewhere should be undertaken at a rate up to and including 40 baits km-1 .
In eastern NSW, aerial baiting of wild dogs on public lands had been restricted by policy to 10 baits km-1 since about 1987, but, except for the expressed desire to minimise potential risks to non-target species, the justification for this arbitrary rate has not been articulated. Our series of trials has shown that aerial baiting at 10 baits km-1 is insufficient to achieve an efficacy of 70%. At an overall proportional mortality of 0.55, the 10 baits km-1 rate would be insufficient for the registration of a new pesticide and is unlikely to substantially reduce the risk of incursion of wild dogs into neighbouring livestock production areas.
These findings, coupled with extensive research on baiting effects on spotted tailed quoll populations by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service researchers (Claridge and Mills 2007; Kortner 2007), indicate that using a rate of 10 baits km-1 for strategic wild dog control is unsupportable given the evidence and that the policy should be updated to allow baiting at 40 baits km-1
. Aerial baiting programs in eastern NSW are designed to prevent or minimise incursions of wild dogs into livestock production areas from forested and wooded lands. Because the cost of wild dog predation cannot be predicted from wild dog abundance (Fleming et al. In press), the objective of wild dog control must be to reduce populations adjacent to livestock production areas to as low as possible so that the probability of incursion is similarly reduced. Therefore, it is not justifiable to purposefully engage in control programs that cannot achieve desired efficacy because wild dogs will die with limited benefit. Additionally, an increase to 40 baits km-1 would significantly improve efficacy with only slight increases in cost (Smith and Fleming 2010) The results of our trials indicate that aerial baiting in the Eastern Division of NSW and in similar regions should be undertaken at rates above 10 baits km-1 to achieve efficacies above 0.7. However, our trials were constrained by the currently permitted rates, which restricts the conclusions to the efficacies of only those rates. Because we were not supported to measure efficacy at rates between 10km-1 and 40km-1, we cannot determine at what bait rate mortalities of 0.7 were achieved, nor the shape of a response curve describing efficacy. Therefore, we must pragmatically conclude that to obtain substantial reduction in wild dog numbers that will reduce the probability of wild dogs entering livestock production areas adjacent to treatment areas requires aerial baiting rates of about 40 baits km-1 .
We appreciate the financial and other support of Australian Wool Innovation, the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. Remy van de Ven provided biometrical advice, Harley Smith helped with economic modelling, Sam Doak and Paul Meek assisted with field work, and John Tracey reviewed the document. References
Ballard, G., Meek, P. D., Doak, S., Fleming, P. J. S. and Sparkes, J. (in press). Camera traps, sand plots and known events: what do camera traps miss? In: 'Camera trapping in wildlife management and research ' (Eds P. D. Meek, P. J. S. Fleming, G. Ballard, P. B. Banks, A. W. Claridge, J. Sanderson and D. E. Swann). (CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood).
Claridge, A. W. and Mills, D. J. (2007). Aerial baiting for wild dogs has no observable impact on spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) in a rainshadow woodland. Wildlife Research 34, 116–124.
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Fleming, P. J. S., Allen, B. L., Allen, L. R., Ballard, G., Bengsen, A. J., Gentle, M. N., McLeod, L. J., Meek, P. D. and Saunders, G. R. (In press). Management of wild canids in Australia: free-ranging dogs and red foxes. In: 'Carnivores of Australia: past, present and future.' (Eds A. S. Glen and C. R. Dickman). (CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood).
Fleming, P. J. S., Thompson, J. A. and Nicol, H. I. (1996). Indices for measuring the efficacy of aerial baiting for wild dog control in north-eastern New South Wales. Wildlife Research 23, 665–674.
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Kortner, G. (2007). 1080 aerial baiting for the control of wild dogs and its impact on spottedtailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) populations in eastern Australia. Wildlife Research 34, 48–53.
Meek, P. D., Ballard, G. and Fleming, P. (2012). 'An introduction to camera trapping for wildlife surveys in Australia'. (Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre: Canberra).
Smith, H. and Fleming, P. (2010). 'Modelled benefits of wild dog aerial baiting rate research '. (NSW Industry and Investment: Orange).
Thomson, P. (1986). The effectiveness of aerial baiting for the control of dingoes in northwestern Australia. Wildlife Research 13, 165–176.
Welch, B. L. (1947). The generalization of Student's problem when several different population variances are involved. Biometrika 34, 28–35.
What’s the difference between a Dingo and a wild dog?
Wild dogs and dingoes are the same species and will readily breed with each other. Studies have shown that there are more hybrids in Eastern Australia and hybridisation occurs more quickly around larger settlements (see Distribution of pure dingoes and dingo-dog hybrids in Australia).
Do dingoes and wild dogs have the same colouring?
Yes. Dingoes are predominantly sandy or ginger in colour but black and tan and white also commonly occur. Hybrids can be any combination of these colours as well as those seen in domestic dogs such as patches and brindle colouration. You cannot distinguish between a dingo and other wild dogs simply by looks alone. Only DNA testing will verify the genetic makeup of a wild dog.
What effect have domestic dogs had on wild dog populations?
Since European settlement, there has been continuous cross breeding between dingoes and domestic dogs and also among hybrids. Domestic dogs have increased the genetic diversity amongst wild dog populations. As a result, there will be differences in body shape, coat colour, breeding cycle and behaviour of individuals within wild dog populations.
What time of year do wild dogs mate?
Traditionally, dingoes mated once per year in autumn to early winter. However, with the increase in hybridisation, breeding occurs over a longer period of the year.
Can wild dogs breed twice a year?
Yes, they can breed twice a year based on information on domestic dog breeds but this has not been recorded or observed in the wild. It is unlikely given the nutritional requirements of gestation and lactation that a bitch would be able to raise two litters of pups in a year. Given hybridisation and the longer breeding period, it is possible that pups will be observed throughout the year. This is not as a result of one bitch breeding but more likely to be more than one bitch breeding or having a litter of pups at different times of the year.
How many pups can they have ?
Wild dogs can have between 1-10 pups but on average, they have 5. The litter size will depend on resource availability and the condition of the bitch at time of mating. Similarly, survival of the pups will vary depending on local conditions and food availability.
What structures do wild dogs use for den sites?
Wild dogs commonly use hollow logs, caves, overhangs, timber piles, burrows of other animals such as wombats, and fox dens. They may also use man made features such as water pipes and culverts.
Do hybrid wild dogs breed twice a year?
There have been no recorded cases of dingoes breeding twice a year. The idea that hybrids might breed more often comes from the fact that domestic dogs can breed twice each year while dingoes only breed once. So if they were combined in a hybrid, perhaps the more hybridised ones could breed twice? While the idea is plausible, the environmental pressures faced by wild-living dingoes and hybrids alike almost certainly limit them to one breeding cycle each year. Wild dogs and dingoes usually have litters in mid-to-late winter, but they have been known to give birth in most other months in some circumstances.
Is there any evidence that wild dogs are getting bigger?
The average weight of a wild dog is between 12 and 20kgs depending on sex, landscape and hybridisation but individuals over 20 kg are likely to be the exception and not the rule. There is little evidence to suggest that wild dogs are getting bigger although there is a significant amount of variation between body weights of populations of dogs depending on their environment. There are also roaming domestic dogs that cause impacts with the largest recorded being a 72kg cross breed.
Is there any evidence that wild dogs are becoming more aggressive?
There is no doubt that some wild dogs can be aggressive by nature however there is no evidence that hybridisation is resulting in more aggression. Given that wild dogs are becoming more common in urban and public areas, the opportunity for aggressive interactions between wild dogs and humans is becoming more frequent. Aggression is often the result of people feeding wild dogs. There is no evidence that pure dingoes are more or less aggressive than hybrid dingoes.
Do wild dogs always live in packs and how big are they?
Social groups of wild dogs are very flexible and can vary from a single breeding pair to broader groups of dogs containing multiple individuals of various ages. The social structure varies depending on resource availability, habitat and population density. Social group structures are maintained through territorial behaviour and may diminish if resources are readily available and competition is reduced.
Do wild dogs only eat wildlife?
Wild dogs are generalist predators and will eat wildlife and livestock if available. They will also scavenge on carrion and attack domestic pets from time to time. Wild dogs can kill more animals than they need for food, which is referred to as surplus killing.
Wild dogs have a role to play in the environment so we should not be controlling them.
Wild dogs have a variety of roles in the environment. These roles can be beneficial, neutral or harmful, and can change from time to time. Wild dogs are controlled to reduce the impacts on livestock and other animals. Balancing the roles of wild dogs from environmental and production perspectives is an important challenge for land managers.
Are there fewer dingoes in Australia since European settlement?
No. There are probably more wild dogs, including dingoes, now in Australia than ever, given the ample food (e.g. rabbits, pigs, kangaroos and livestock) and water resources created since European settlement. However, in some sheep- grazing areas wild dog populations have been significantly reduced. Overall, this means that wild dog numbers have increased but the proportion of pure dingoes is decreasing through hybridisation with other dogs. Pure dingoes are still found in most parts of Australia, although there are fewer in places with the longest history of European settlement.
Grey wolves (Canis lupus) were domesticated by people in Asia over 10,000 years ago to create dingoes. A few of these domesticated animals were first brought to Australia about 4000 years ago and literally let loose. Dingoes from Asia continued to be brought to Australia until the early 1900s.
Since the early days of European settlement of Australia, domestic dogs have been interbreeding with ‘pure’ dingoes to create hybrids or crossbreds. The impact that this interbreeding may have on ecological processes is unknown, but hybrids are considered to pose a genetic threat to the unique identity of the Australian dingo. Knowing where the most pure populations of dingoes remain can help managers conserve these dingoes’ genetic integrity.
The colour of a wild dog’s pelt is not a very useful indicator of genetic purity. Pure dingoes are not always the typical yellow colour most people associate them with, and hybrids can often have this typical yellow colouring. Characteristics besides coat colour are needed to determine whether or not a wild dog is a pure bred or a hybrid.
DNA testing can be used to determine the purity level of a wild dog. By taking a piece of ear tissue, a cheek swab or some hair from a wild dog, geneticists can analyse a number of specific ‘markers’ (small pieces of the animal’s total DNA) that are known to be different between dogs and dingoes. A freeroaming wild dog might have all dingo-like DNA or a mixture of dingo and domestic dog DNA. Very few domestic dogs (such as escaped pets or working dogs) are found in the wild on the mainland.
Recent results from 3637 wild dog DNA samples from across Australia have found that the percentage of hybrids in the wild is generally higher in areas with large human populations, such as New South Wales and Victoria (Map, right). More remote areas inland and to the west have higher levels of dingo purity, with 87% of wild dogs tested in the Northern Territory being pure dingoes (Graph, below).
Since domestic dogs arrived in Australia, interbreeding between dogs and dingoes has progressed rapidly. Understanding which areas have pure dingoes and which have hybrids is important for dingo conservation and for understanding the ecology of wild dogs in Australia’s ecosystems.
Claridge A and Hunt R (2008). Evaluating the role of the dingo as a trophic regulator: additional practical suggestions. Ecological Management and Restoration 9:116–119.
Glen AS (2010). Hybridisation between dingoes and domestic dogs: a comment on Jones (2009). Australian Mammalogy 32:76–77.
Corbett LK (2008). Canis lupus ssp. dingo. IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Elledge AE, Allen LR, Carlsson BL, Wilton AN and Leung LKP (2008). An evaluation of genetic analyses, skull morphology and visual appearance for assessing dingo purity: implications for dingo conservation. Wildlife Research 35:812–820.
Wilton AN (2001). DNA methods of assessing dingo purity. In: Dickman CR and Lunney D (Eds), A Symposium on the Dingo, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, p49–56.
Stephens D (2011). The Molecular Ecology of Australian Wild Dogs: Hybridisation, Gene Flow and Genetic Structure at Multiple Geographic Scales. PhD Thesis. The University of Western Australia, Perth.
Wild dogs are identified by the national Vertebrate Pests Committee as a ‘Category 5 / Extreme’ species. Category 5 means that the animal is a recognised pest that is both widespread and established, while an Extreme classification indicates that such animals should not be allowed to enter, nor be kept in any state or territory without permission. Wild dogs are also identified as a pest animal under the Australian Pest Animal Strategy.
Because of these classifications, wild dog management is constrained by legislation and policy, with various guidelines, codes of practice, and standard operating procedures applying. Legislation and policy often vary between jurisdictions at local and state levels, with overriding federal laws also affecting wild dog management. There are also other more generic Acts that function across jurisdictions. Violation of laws related to wild dog management can attract serious penalties (eg fines and jail time) for individuals and agencies. In general, the following types of regulations should be considered before beginning any wild dog management activity.
Laws relating to animal welfare:
There are laws in every state and territory that address the need to treat all animals humanely, whether they are considered pests or not. People managing wild dogs are obligated to use control methods that minimise any potential pain, fear or distress. These obligations encompass a wide range of activities from the capture and relocation of animals, through to poisoning, shooting or trapping. Codes of practice, standard operating procedures, and best-practice guidelines for the management of wild dogs have been developed, are publically available, and should be followed in order to prevent cruelty to animals during control operations.
Laws relating to land tenure:
The legal status of wild dogs varies with different land tenures. In many cases, wild dogs are a ‘protected species’ in national parks and conservation reserves, while they are considered ‘declared pests’ in many livestock production areas. Listing wild dogs as protected or declared places certain restrictions and obligations on those intending to manage wild dogs in a given area. Certain management activities are not legally permissible on all tenures. Permission to access various land tenures should also be considered.
Laws relating to the conservation status of specific wild dog populations:
Laws can sometimes vary between specific populations or types of wild dog. For example, an isolated island population (such as those o n Fraser Island) might be considered a unique natural asset worthy of conservation. Alternatively, people might want to only conserve pure dingoes but eliminate impure hybrids and feral dogs. Because it can be hard to identify the purity of an individual wild dog just from how it looks, land tenure (or the expected location of important populations) is often used to define areas where different restrictions apply. For example, controlling all wild dogs (pure or otherwise) may be allowed along the boundaries of some conservation reserves, while core areas within a reserve may be set aside for wild dog conservation.
Laws relating to the use of specific control techniques:
Various control techniques are also often governed by laws independent of their use on wild dogs. For example, there is specific legislation dealing with the use of firearms, which are often used to euthanise wild dogs in trapping or shooting programs. Various laws also govern the use of poisons and other veterinary drugs used to kill or safely handle wild dogs. Many of these chemicals have label instructions and directions for use that are legally binding. Wild dog managers are not freed from obligations under these laws even when other obligations (such as animal welfare and land tenure considerations) have been met.
Laws relating to the use of animals for research and teaching:
Not all wild dog management activities require the destruction of animals, and alternative legislation governs the use of animals for researching and teaching purposes. Some wild dog management activities might be considered ‘research and teaching activities’ in some jurisdictions, such as the systematic use of infra-red trail cameras or attaching tracking collars to wild dogs. If this is the case, various additional permits and approvals may be required before management activities can begin.
Laws relating to the keeping, sale, and movement of wild dogs:
Because wild dogs may be considered protected or declared, native or introduced, or a risk to livestock or not, laws differ between jurisdictions with respect to the keeping, sale and movement of wild dogs. Different states and territories may or may not allow the keeping of wild dogs as pets. A permit may be required to do so, and although allowed in one area, wild dogs may not be transportable to another state or tenure. Wild dogs may be seized and euthanised if they are being kept illegally.
WDFS3_quoteLegal obligations on owners of land where wild dogs occur:
The responsibility to manage wild dogs rests largely with the owners or managers of the land where wild dogs occur. This presents challenges in places where wild dogs roam between multiple properties, and these are usually sorted out through community wild dog management plans. In places where wild dogs are considered pests, landowners have a responsibility to control wild dogs on their land and prevent them from causing problems on neighbouring lands. On lands where wild dog conservation measures are applied, managers have a responsibility to ensure that wild dogs are not leaving those lands or causing problems in adjacent areas. These obligations apply to private, leased and crown lands. There are likely to be penalties for people and agencies that do not abide by the rules.
EPBC Act considerations:
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 oversees the management of vulnerable and endangered native species, populations and ecological communities. The EPBC Act lists all the native species currently at risk from a variety of factors. The EPBC Act also lists the key threatening processes (KTP) known to affect threatened species. Predation by wild dogs has not been recognised as a KTP in national legislation but is recognised as such in New South Wales. Important to the management of wild dogs, all new wild dog control programs must be reviewed under the EPBC Act before they are put in place, to assess the program’s risk to threatened species in the area. For example, if wild dog control is to begin in a national park where control has not taken place previously, the proposal must be assessed before it can start.
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