Summary Lethal control of wild dogs – that is Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) and Dingo/Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) hybrids – to reduce livestock predation in Australian rangelands is claimed to cause continental‐scale impacts on biodiversity. Although top predator populations may recover numerically after baiting, they are predicted to be functionally different and incapable of fulfilling critical ecological roles. This study reports the impact of baiting programmes on wild dog abundance, age structures and the prey of wild dogs during large‐scale manipulative experiments. Wild dog relative abundance almost always decreased after baiting, but reductions were variable and short‐lived unless the prior baiting programme was particularly effective or there were follow‐up baiting programmes within a few months. However, age structures of wild dogs in baited and nil‐treatment areas were demonstrably different, and prey populations did diverge relative to nil‐treatment areas. Re‐analysed observations of wild dogs preying on kangaroos from a separate study show that successful chases that result in attacks of kangaroos by wild dogs occurred when mean wild dog ages were higher and mean group size was larger. It is likely that the impact of lethal control on wild dog numbers, group sizes and age structures compromise their ability to handle large difficult‐to‐catch prey. Under certain circumstances, these changes sometimes lead to increased calf loss (Bos indicus/B. taurus genotypes) and kangaroo numbers. Rangeland beef producers could consider controlling wild dogs in high‐risk periods when predation is more likely and avoid baiting at other times.
Ecological Management & Restoration – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2015
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