Wild dog ecology, impacts and management in northern Australian cattle enterprises: a review with recommendations for RD&E investments

The Wild dog ecology, impacts and management in northern Australian cattle enterprises: a review with recommendations for RD&E investments project investigated the impact of wild dogs on the beef industry of northern Australia in order to develop and implement acceptable management strategies and identify areas requiring additional research.


Reported increases in the occurrence and distribution of wild dogs are associated with increased prominence of interest and concern about their impacts on cattle and other livestock enterprises. Estimates of the livestock production losses across Australia attributable to wild dogs are about $48.5 million per year and, for beef cattle in northern Australia, about $23.4 million. Simultaneously, the conservation of dingoes is rousing more public attention and their preservation, encouragement and reintroduction for biodiversity benefit have been suggested. This can influence the application of management actions by cattle producers.

The first step in dealing with contentious issues of wildlife management is to define the issue as best as possible given current knowledge, policy, and legislation. To assist in the definition of the wild dog issue for northern cattle producers, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) commissioned this review which outlines: the current knowledge of wild dog biology, behaviour and ecology; perceived and measured impacts on livestock, wildlife and people; legislation, regulation and policy affecting management of wild dogs across northern Australia; and current hypotheses affecting public debate and decision-making as they pertain to the cattle industry in northern Australia.

Wild dogs are middle-sized predators derived by human selection from wolves in Asia and dingoes were brought to Australia by traders about 4000 years ago. The domestic dog component of the wild dog population has been infiltrating the dingo gene pool since 1788. The proportion of “pure” dingoes increases towards the centre and northwest of the continent. Opening up of land for agriculture and the development of the cattle industry has increased the abundance and distribution of wild dogs in northern Australia over the past 100 years or so.

Wild dogs have flexible foraging strategies and a consequently varied diet, allowing them to live in most environments. Predation of livestock is the main agricultural impact of wild dogs but its occurrence is variable, and likely affected by seasonal conditions, permanent water dispersion and prey availability. Recent publications have postulated an important role for “dingoes” in retention of threatened fauna in the ecosystems where they occur. Such suggestions can affect public opinion, the development and interpretation of policy and, in turn, application of management actions by cattle producers. However, conclusive data on most aspects of wild dog interactions with their prey are lacking and require experimental investigation.

When: 14 March 2011 to 30 June 2011

Contact: Dr Peter Fleming

Collaborators: NSW Department of Primary Industries and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

More information

For more information, please read the final report summary and download the final report (B.NBP.0671) (PDF, 1.4 MB) from the Meat & Livestock Australia website.