The effect of dingo control on sheep and beef cattle in Queensland
- 1Predation by dingoes Canis lupus dingo is regarded as a widespread problem by Australian livestock producers. This study examined five decades of historical data to evaluate the use and effect of dingo control on the distribution of sheep and beef cattle in Queensland.
- 2In Queensland, dingo bounties were significantly more numerous in years with high sheep numbers but significantly less numerous in years with high beef cattle numbers. These relationships probably reflected the social and economic attitudes of the two producer groups to dingoes.
- 3The relatively high impact that dingoes are perceived to have on sheep compared with beef cattle, the control techniques used by the two producer groups, and the intensity at which these techniques are applied, were the underlying causes.
- 4Subsequent to the introduction of baiting using 1080 (sodium fluoracetate), there was an immediate decline in the use of strychnine, the number of dingo bounties presented for payment, and the number of dingo trappers employed by local governments in Queensland. However, these changes were confounded by a simultaneous decline in sheep numbers and dingo control effort.
- 5Barrier fences and poisoned ‘buffers’ were compared for their ability to protect sheep from dingo predation. With few exceptions, sheep numbers declined or increased marginally within 50 km inside a dingo barrier fence or within a boundary between sheep and beef cattle production outside the dingo barrier fence. This contrasted to areas > 50 km from the dingo barrier fence or sheep/cattle boundary.
- 6Both poisoned buffers and barrier fences could be equally effective at preventing sheep losses. However, buffers are best suited to open arid areas where large-scale co-ordinated baiting programmes are more feasible and where prey scarcity leads to increased bait consumption. We predict that sheep production outside the dingo barrier fence in Queensland will contract from the north and east. There is a case for re-establishing a barrier fence in this area to prevent such contraction.
- 7Co-ordinated predator management, such as barrier fencing or aerial baiting, can protect sheep at a regional level. However, unless the financial burden of pest control is shared through a centralized scheme, sheep producers living along the boundary are likely to leave the industry or substitute cattle for sheep and the sheep-production area will contract.
- 8This paper cautions the use of bounties as a measure of relative abundance and illustrates how people’s perception of a pest and the type of livestock they produce can affect their level of control effort and the control methods they use.