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Forsyth D.M.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Woodford L.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Moloney P.D.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Hampton J.O.,Ecotone Wildlife Veterinary Services | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

There is much interest in understanding how anthropogenic food resources subsidise carnivore populations. Carcasses of hunter-shot ungulates are a potentially substantial food source for mammalian carnivores. The sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) is a large (≥150 kg) exotic ungulate that can be hunted throughout the year in south-eastern Australia, and hunters are not required to remove or bury carcasses. We investigated how wild dogs/dingoes and their hybrids (Canis lupus familiaris/dingo), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cats (Felis catus) utilised sambar deer carcasses during the peak hunting seasons (i.e. winter and spring). We placed carcasses at 1-km intervals along each of six transects that extended 4-km into forest from farm boundaries. Visits to carcasses were monitored using camera traps, and the rate of change in edible biomass estimated at ∼14-day intervals. Wild dogs and foxes fed on 70% and 60% of 30 carcasses, respectively, but feral cats seldom (10%) fed on carcasses. Spatial and temporal patterns of visits to carcasses were consistent with the hypothesis that foxes avoid wild dogs. Wild dog activity peaked at carcasses 2 and 3 km from farms, a likely legacy of wild dog control, whereas fox activity peaked at carcasses 0 and 4 km from farms. Wild dog activity peaked at dawn and dusk, whereas nearly all fox activity occurred after dusk and before dawn. Neither wild dogs nor foxes remained at carcasses for long periods and the amount of feeding activity by either species was a less important predictor of the loss of edible biomass than season. Reasons for the low impacts of wild dogs and foxes on sambar deer carcass biomass include the spatially and temporally unpredictable distribution of carcasses in the landscape, the rapid rate of edible biomass decomposition in warm periods, low wild dog densities and the availability of alternative food resources. © 2014 Forsyth et al. Source

Spencer P.B.S.,Murdoch University | Hampton J.O.,Ecotone Wildlife Veterinary Services | Pacioni C.,Murdoch University | Kennedy M.S.,Invasive Species Science | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2015

The Judas animal control technique relies on the social nature of some invasive species to betray the location of their companions. It is an effective method of enhancing shooting programs in highly gregarious mammal species. We used social genetic data to examine the utility of the Judas technique in a novel species: wild dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius). Firstly, we used molecular data (13 microsatellite markers from 1,050 camels) to characterize genetic diversity and relatedness within and between observed social groups. Genetic estimates of relatedness between pairs within a group (r = -0.058) were not different from a comparison between any 2 randomly selected individuals. We did not find relatedness within and between social groups to be significantly different for 78% of social groups, suggesting a fission-fusion social structure conducive to applying the Judas technique. Secondly, we performed an operational trial of the Judas technique to assess the predictions of the genetic data. We tracked 10 collared Judas camels using a combination of satellite- and radio-telemetry for 9.0 ± 5.0 (mean ± SD) months between 2008 and 2010. We found Judas animals with a cohort of animals on 96% of occasions. Cohorts displayed no significant size difference prior to shooting (9.3 ± 9.9 animals), and after shooting (9.2 ± 7.5 animals). Genetic and operational data indicate that the Judas technique may be of utility in controlling camels at low population densities. This study also suggests that social genetic data can be used to assess applicability of the Judas technique for novel species. © 2014 The Wildlife Society. Source

Hampton J.O.,Ecotone Wildlife Veterinary Services | Hampton J.O.,Murdoch University | Jones B.,RSPCA Australia | Perry A.L.,Livestock Extension | And 2 more authors.
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2016

The Australian Feral Camel Management Project (AFCMP) was initiated in 2009 to manage the growing impacts of feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) in Australia. One of the most important considerations for the project was achieving high standards of animal welfare and demonstrating this to stakeholders and the public. The novelty of feral camels as an invasive species meant that relatively little was known about the animal welfare aspects of the available management techniques. To address this knowledge gap, quantitative animal-based assessment tools were developed to allow independent observers to perform repeatable in situ field auditing of the two main control methods used: aerial (helicopter) shooting and live capture (mustering and transport for slaughter). Although observation protocols allowed most stages of aerial shooting (in situ killing) to be assessed, not all stages of live capture operations could be assessed (namely transport and slaughter at ex situ abattoirs) due to the limitations of the jurisdiction of the Australian Feral Camel Management Project. For assessments that were performed, audit results were made available to project partners to allow procedures to be reviewed and published through peer-reviewed literature to improve transparency. Empirical evidence produced through the audit system was also used to refine humaneness ranking assessments comparing management methods. We present the lessons learnt through the animal welfare approach of the AFCMP to assist future wild herbivore management programs. Source

Hampton J.O.,Ecotone Wildlife Veterinary Services | Hampton J.O.,Murdoch University | Cowled B.D.,AusVet Animal Health Services | Perry A.L.,Kyabram Veterinary Clinic | And 3 more authors.
Wildlife Research | Year: 2014

Context Helicopter shooting is a common and effective tool for reducing overabundant wildlife populations. However, there is little quantitative information on the humaneness of the method, leading to uncertainty in wildlife-management policy. There is, subsequently, a need for an improved understanding of the welfare implications of helicopter shooting. Aim A study was undertaken to infer the humaneness of helicopter shooting for a case study species, the feral dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius). Methods Seven post-mortem studies (n≤715) and one ante-mortem study (n≤192) were undertaken during routine helicopter shooting programs of free-ranging camels. In these studies, we measured four animal-welfare parameters to allow inference on the humaneness of the technique. These parameters were time to death, instantaneous death rate (proportion of animals for which time to death≤0), wounding rate and location of bullet-wound tract. We also modelled these welfare variables against hypothesised explanatory variables to assist improvement of future programs. Key results The mean wounding rate was 0.4%, and the killing efficacy of the technique was 99.6%. Mean time to death was 4s, and mean instantaneous death rate was 83%. Each animal displayed a mean 2.4 bullet-wound tracts, with 75%, 63% and 35% of animals shot at least once in the thorax, cranium and cervical spine, respectively. Regression analysis revealed that the identity of the shooter and the nature of the local vegetation were the most important factors associated with an animal experiencing an inferred instantaneous death or not. Conclusions Helicopter shooting of feral camels produces a very low wounding rate and rapid time to death. Shooter identity is the most important consideration for determining animal-welfare outcomes. Improvements to the humaneness of programs can be made by increasing the rigour of shooter selection and training. Implications Wildlife killing methods must be demonstrated to be humane to receive public support; however, few shooting methods are objectively examined. Helicopter shooting can be independently examined and operators assessed. Adoption of this examination template may allow continual improvement by industry as well as increasing societal acceptance of helicopter shooting. © 2014 CSIRO. Source

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