Between 1993 and 1998 a wild dog predation study was conducted evaluating the impact of wild dogs to the beef industry in extensive grazing systems.
The objectives of the research were to:
• Measure the calf losses caused by wild dogs,
• Assess the impact of 1080 baiting programs on native animal populations and determine whether wild dog predation controlled pest species, and
• Evaluate the effectiveness of 1080 baiting programs.
Key findings of this research are:
1. Annual calf loss caused by wild dogs can be as high as 32%. Loss occurred in below average, rainfall years and when staple prey numbers were low. In most years, predation loss could not be detected in baited or non-baited areas. There is no relationship between predation loss of calves and wild dog abundance.
2. Calf predation was higher, 11-32%, and occurred more often (three of seven years) in baited areas (400 - 2000 km2) compared to adjoining non-baited areas of similar size (9% loss in one of seven years).
3. Baited areas are re-colonised principally through immigration rather than increased natality of survivors. The wild dogs that re-colonise after baiting are more likely to prey on calves than wild dogs left in stable populations.
4. Young, low ranked, dispersing wild dogs that re-colonise baited areas kill more calves than older, more experienced wild dogs from stable packs because they lack the group hunting skills and group size to efficiently switch to larger prey when smaller preferred prey become unavailable.
5. 75% of twelve, 1080 baiting programs reduced wild dog activity by more than 50%. However, 67% of nine baiting programs, conducted in the first nine months of the year, recovered to pre-baiting levels during the following summer when newborn calves are the most numerous.
6. 1080 baiting programs had no detectable short or long-term impact on reptile, bird, feral cat or native carnivore activity.
7. Macropod activity increased more rapidly in baited areas compared to non-baited areas and possum activity appeared suppressed by predation in the baited area. While differences in macropod activity between treatment areas was insignificant in this evaluation, the longterm effect is uncertain. Drought and flush seasons have the greatest
influence on wildlife activity.
8. These data show that while wild dogs have significant capacity to prey on beef cattle, wild dog control is unnecessary provided alternative prey resources are available and wild dogs are in stable populations. The data also highlight the need for wild dog management, if undertaken, to focus on coordinating control at a regional level to avoid re-colonisation occurring particularly in years/seasons/situations of low prey availability.