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Gentle M.,Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Center | Pople A.,Invasive Plant and Animal Science
Wildlife Research | Year: 2013

Context The feral pig (Sus scrofa) is a widespread pest species in Australia and its populations are commonly controlled to reduce damage to agriculture and the environment. Feral pigs are also a resource and harvested for commercial export as game meat. Although many other control techniques are used, commercial harvesting of feral pigs is often encouraged by land managers, because it carries little or no cost and is widely perceived to control populations. Aims To use feral-pig harvesting records, density data and simple harvest models to examine the effectiveness of commercial harvesting to reduce feral-pig populations. Methods The present study examined commercial harvest off-take on six sites (246-657km2) in southern Queensland, and 20 large blocks (∼2-6000km2) throughout Queensland. The harvest off-take for each site was divided by monthly or average annual population size, determined by aerial survey, to calculate monthly and annual harvest rates. A simple harvest model assuming logistic population growth was used to determine the likely effectiveness of harvesting. Key results Commercial harvest rates were generally low (<∼20%) and are likely to provide only modest reductions in population size. Additionally, harvest rates capable of substantial reductions (>50%) in long-term population size were isolated occurrences and not maintained across sites and years. High harvest rates were observed only at low densities. Although these harvest rates may be sufficiently high to hold populations at low densities, the population is likely to escape this entrapment following a flush in food supply or a reduction in harvest effort. Implications Our results demonstrated that, at current harvest rates, commercial harvesting is ineffective for the landscape-scale control of feral-pig populations. Unless harvest rates can be significantly increased, commercial harvesting should be used as a supplement to, rather than as a substitute for, other damage-control techniques. © CSIRO 2013.

Allen L.R.,Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Center
Animal Production Science | Year: 2014

Wild dogs (Canis lupus dingo and hybrids) are routinely controlled to protect beef cattle from predation yet beef producers are sometimes ambivalent as to whether wild dogs are a significant problem or not. This paper reports the loss of calves between birth and weaning in pregnancy-tested herds located on two beef cattle properties in south-central and far north Queensland for up to 4 consecutive years. Comparisons of lactation failures (identified when dams that previously tested pregnant were found non-lactating at weaning) were made between adjoining test herds grazed in places with or without annual (or twice annual) wild dog poison baiting programs. No correlation between wild dog relative abundance and lactation failures was apparent. Calf loss was frequently higher (three in 7 site-years, 11-32%) in baited areas than in non-baited areas (9% in 1 of 7 site-years). Predation loss of calves (in either area) only occurred in seasons of below-average rainfall, but was not related to herd nutrition. These data suggest that controlling wild dogs to protect calves on extensive beef cattle enterprises is unnecessary in most years because wild dogs do not routinely prey on calves. In those seasons when wild dog predation might occur, baiting can be counter-productive. Baiting appears to produce perturbations that change the way surviving or re-colonising wild dog populations select and handle prey and/or how they interact with livestock.© 2014 CSIRO.

Allen B.L.,University of Queensland | Engeman R.M.,National Wildlife Research Center | Allen L.R.,Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Center
Current Zoology | Year: 2011

There is growing interest in the role that apex predators play in shaping terrestrial ecosystems and maintaining trophic cascades. In line with the mesopredator release hypothesis, Australian dingoes (Canis lupus dingo and hybrids) are assumed by many to regulate the abundance of invasive mesopredators, such as red foxes Vulpes vulpes and feral cats Felis catus, thereby providing indirect benefits to various threatened vertebrates. Several recent papers have claimed to provide evidence for the biodiversity benefits of dingoes in this way. Nevertheless, in this paper we highlight several critical weaknesses in the methodological approaches used in many of these reports, including lack of consideration for seasonal and habitat differences in activity, the complication of simple track-based indices by incorporating difficult-to-meet assumptions, and a reduction in sensitivity for assessing populations by using binary measures rather than potentially continuous measures. Of the 20 studies reviewed, 15 of them (75%) contained serious methodological flaws, which may partly explain the inconclusive nature of the literature investigating interactions between invasive Australian predators. We therefore assert that most of the "growing body of evidence" for mesopredator release is merely an inconclusive growing body of literature only. We encourage those interested in studying the ecological roles of dingoes relative to invasive mesopredators and native prey species to account for the factors we identify, and caution the value of studies that have not done so. © 2011 Current Zoology.

Allen L.R.,Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Center
Ecological Management and Restoration | Year: 2015

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. © 2015 Ecological Society of Australia and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.

Allen L.,Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Center | Goullet M.,FeralsOut
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2012

Dingoes and other wild dogs (Canis lupus dingo and hybrids) are generalist predators that consume a wide variety of different prey species within their range. Little is known, however, of the diets of dingoes in north-eastern Australia where the potential for impacts by dingoes exists. Recently new information has been provided on the diets of dingoes from several sites in Queensland, Australia, significantly adding to the body of published knowledge on ecosystems within this region. Further information on the diet of dingoes in north-eastern Australia is added from 1460 scats collected from five sites, representing tropical savannahs, tropical offshore islands (and a matched mainland area), dry sclerophyll forests and peri-urban areas on the fringe of Townsville. Macropods, possums and bandicoots were found to be common prey for dingoes in these areas. Evidence suggested that the frequency of prey remains in scats can be an unreliable indicator of predation risk to potential prey and it was found that novel and unexpected prey species appear in dingo diets as preferred prey become unavailable. The results support the generalisation that dingoes prefer medium- to large-sized native prey species when available but also highlight the capacity for dingoes to exploit populations of both large and small prey species that might not initially be considered at risk from predation based solely on data on scats. © Australian Rangeland Society 2012.

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