Image by Peter Merritt

Wild Dog Management

Effective wild dog control programs rely on multiple tools used in an integrated, coordinated approach

Do you have wild dogs?

If you think you’ve got wild dogs, you’re not alone. According to ABARES latest national survey on wild dog impacts, 66% of landholders have reported wild dog problems on their property in the past 12 months with 34% of them describing their problem as severe.  

Use the diagnostic tool below to check whether you have wild dogs.

Diagnostic tool

Select the indicators that apply to you.

Indicators
Free-roaming dogs seen or heard
Wild dog footprints found in places where working dogs have not been used (eg around water
points, road junctions, along animal pads, under holes in fences, newly graded tracks)
Wild dog scats/faeces and scratch marks found in similar places (scats should contain hair, bones, scales, feathers, or insects)
Livestock kills and damage, including bite marks or torn ears
Unexplained livestock losses or low marking/branding/mustering percentages
Unusually high percentages of cows not producing milk
The absence of young kangaroos and feral goats
Kangaroos caught in fences when there has been no one present to disturb the mobs
Sheep coming into water at a gallop and leaving in the same way (lead animal taking last animal back out before it has drunk)
Changes in livestock or goat behaviour (eg stock no longer camping on the dam or grazing where they always have in the past)
Sheep that won’t work into the wind or visit good feed down one end of the paddock
Kangaroos/livestock drowned in full dams
Feral goat numbers lower than expected
Crows following your working dogs
Increased localised crow numbers
Birds of prey in consistenly rough, barren areas where you would not otherwise expect to find much food

Identify wild dog tracks

Distinguishing between wild dog, fox, cat and quoll tracks:
The presence of wild dogs is often discovered by seeing their tracks in the soil, but sometimes the tracks of other species look similar to those of wild dogs (see Figure 1). Wind, rain, organic matter in the soil and other factors can make it difficult to accurately identify some tracks or determine how fresh they are.

The average size of wild dog footprints also changes throughout the  year as pups become active and begin wandering around. For  example, in late spring and early summer, some wild dog footprints (of pups) can be as small as those of foxes and it can be hard to tell  them apart. By autumn and winter, all wild dog prints are usually  much larger than foxes’ prints (Figure 1).

The front foot length of adult wild dogs (excluding nails) is usually  greater than 6 cm. When wild dogs, foxes and cats walk, their front  foot hits the ground first and their back foot print usually lands  nearby (see Figure 2).

Comparative guide of the shape and size of dog, fox, quoll and cat tracks
Figure 1: Relative size and shape of wild dog, fox, quoll and cat prints
Illustration showing spacing of prints for wild dogs, foxes and cats
Figure 2: Usual foot print placement for wild dogs, foxes and cats

In good track-reading conditions in sand, silt, or mud:

  • dog prints are usually larger and rounder, foxes’ prints are smaller  and more elongated, and cats’ prints are small and very  round
  • dog toe nails usually point out straight, fox nails point inwards,  and cats have no toe nail marks
  • the back foot usually partly overlaps the front foot for dogs,  mostly overlaps for foxes, and almost completely overlaps for cats
  • the front foot of quolls shows all five toes (wild dogs, foxes and  cats only show four).

For more information to help identify tracks and other signs of wild  dogs and other animals see the book Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals (2004), by Barbara Triggs.

NWDAP has taken care to validate the accuracy of the information at the date of publication. This information has been prepared with care but it is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, to the extent permitted by law.

If wild dogs are presenting a threat, the first step is to contact your local regulatory body to find out what control operations are occurring locally and if there is a local wild dog management group in your area that coordinates a landholder-driven, broadscale, coordinated management program utilising a range of control tools and strategies.  

Wild dogs are highly mobile and able to cover extensive distances in even the most rugged terrain. Learn more about how wild dogs use the landscape from Dr Guy Ballard, Research Leader – Predator Management at NSW Department of Primary Industries. Here, he tracks a male wild dog, about two years old, as he travels around Guy Fawkes River National Park and makes forays into farmland, regularly covering up to 50-60 sq km. It shows not only how far individuals can travel, but also how effective predator fencing and baiting programs work to reduce stock impacts.

How Wild Dogs Use Terrain

The regulatory authority for each state are: 

NSW – Local Land Services

Vic – Department of Environment Land Water and Planning

Qld – contact your local council

SA – Department of Primary Industries and Regions

WA – Dept. of Primary Industries and Regional Development 

NT – NT Government – Environment

Once you have made contact with the regulatory authority you will need to develop a property wild dog management plan that provides direction and guidance of the type of control you will deliver, the timing of when undertake control and link’s in with the local wild dog group coordinated programs. You may also want to consider delivering extra control during key lambing and calving periods to protect young animals from predation. 

Victorian Wild Dog Community Program

Create your own plan

If there are no groups in your area, you can utilise a range of NWDAP-developed resources to help  get you started. Remember, the most successful programs are always: collaborative (land managers working together); coordinated (dogs aren’t chased from one property to another) and landscape-scale (reflect how dogs use the landscape and don’t recognise title boundaries). 

To find out if wild dogs have been sighted in your area download the free FeralScan app which includes WildDogScan, one of its suite of pest management tools. Use WildDogScan to map wild dog activity, document wild dog problems, inform your neighbours and local biosecurity authorities, and identify priority areas for control. 

Before starting a wild dog management program, we strongly recommend you become familiar with the code of practice for the humane control of wild dogs and the standard operating procedures for each tool. 

Working plan to manage wild dogs

Plans for organic producers 

Tools

Effective wild dog control programs rely on multiple tools used in an integrated, coordinated approach. In the videos below, Queensland’s Paroo Shire landholders explain how they use a combination of tools to successfully manage wild dogs.

The Paroo Model – Part 1
The Paroo Model – Part 2

How to use wild dog management tools effectively

Baiting

With 1080: Effective wild dog control programs rely on multiple tools used in an integrated, coordinated approach. Baiting, using 1080, is the cheapest, most environmentally responsible and effective tool available and provides 24-hour control. For land managers to access 1080, they may need to be trained and authorised to use the chemical in accordance with their state or territory regulations. 

Laying ground baits

Worried about our native animals? Scientific evidence shows Australia’s native animals are highly tolerant to 1080 due to it occurring naturally in a number of native plant species including Acacia georginae (Georgina gidgee) and Gastrolobium bushes, making it ideal for targeting introduced species. To put native species’ tolerance into perspective,  a goanna is about 550 times more tolerant to 1080 than a dog.  

Before embarking on a baiting program, consider what other predators or pests may be around that may undermine your efforts. For example, foxes and feral pigs will also compete for baits and while a dog bait (containing 6mg of 1080) will kill a fox (fox baits contain 3mg of 1080), they won’t kill a pig (72mg per bait). Other predators can potentially consume all or most of  your dog baits before your intended target comes along. This is why a targeted, strategic, coordinated, landscape-scale campaign will always reap the best results. 

Further information is available in the PestSmart Standard Operating Procedure.

During baiting programs working dogs and pets should be muzzled or otherwise protected from coming into contact with baits, carcasses or toxic vomit.

If you suspect your working dog or pet of 1080 poisoning, follow this first aid guide.

Learn from a leading trainer how to use muzzles  

With PAPP: Para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) is an alternative toxin to 1080 and there is a veterinarian-administered antidote Blue Healer. However, this is a fast-acting toxin and the antidote may not help if you are some distance from a vet. Intended for use in more sensitive areas, e.g. around homesteads or in peri-urban areas, PAPP is available in most states in manufactured bait-form, DOGABAIT and FOXECUTE.

Further information is available at PestSmart.

DOGABAIT and FOXECUTE

Delivery

Canid pest ejectors are a spring activated device that requires an animal to pull on a bait head to trigger the mechanism which in turn ejects the poison contents of a capsule into the animal’s mouth. It is a very target specific device as it requires sufficient pull force on the bait head to exclude native species. The capsules may contain either 1080 or PAPP depending on whether you are targeting foxes or wild dogs.

Bait head are available from the manufacture pre-made with dry meat or they can be made on site to offer more offer a range of bait types to encourage animals to pull on the device.  

Canid Pest Ejector (CPE) for fox and wild dog control

From the air: Aerial baiting is a highly coordinated, strategic and effective technique that involves extensive land manager consultation and collaboration from numerous communities. It is most often employed to tackle wild dogs (and other pests) in extensive landscapes or in rugged, inaccessible, often mountainous terrain where laying baits on ground is not feasible or safe. Aerial baiting is extremely strategic and target areas of known wild dog movements and travel ways used by wild dogs to cause impacts on primary production and native wildlife.

Aerial baiting in Paroo

These programs require significant planning by all stakeholders involve to determine flight paths and seek approval from landholders. Aircraft used in aerial baiting operations are equipped with highly accurate GPS navigation equipment and up to date mapping software to ensure baits are delivered accurately in the designated locations.

Further information is available at PestSmart.

Aerial baiting in the NSW Tablelands

Trapping

Leghold traps have been used to control wild dogs in Australia for over a century. However, the traps used these days, unlike the steel-jawed traps of old, are designed not to cause damage to the leg of the captured animal. The “Soft Catch” or rubber-jawed foothold traps are used in the fur trade in the northern hemisphere and meet the standards outlined in the International Agreement on Humane Trapping Standards.

Laying a trap

Each state has its own regulations regarding the type and size of the foothold traps permitted for use. Wild dogs trapped in foothold traps are generally euthanised with a firearm in accordance with the National Code of Practice for Ground Shooting Wild Dogs

Further information is available in the PestSmart Standard Operating Procedure for soft-jawed traps.

Professional wild dog controllers are also available to support wild dog management activities and are often used to support baiting activities or to target wild dogs that have avoided other forms of control.

Jim Miller is a wild dog trapper from the arid and semi arid rangelands of pastoral Western Australia. In this series of videos Jim explains and demonstrates some of the methods and equipment.

Large cage traps may also be used to trap wild dogs. These are generally used in and around peri-urban environments, where dogs have become accustomed to human activity. 

Further information is available in the PestSmart Standard Operating Procedure for cage traps.

Shooting

Ground shooting alone will not control wild dogs but it can be very effective at targeting individuals when they have evaded other forms of control. Shooting should be carried out by a competent marksman or landholder to avoid wounding or missing the dog.

Training in shooting

Game callers or howlers can be extremely effective tools to call wild dogs into range for shooting, particularly during the mating and breeding season when wild dogs are actively marking and defending their territories.

Further information is available in the PestSmart Standard Operating Procedure, including animal welfare guidelines and recommended calibers.

Fencing

Exclusion, cluster and barrier fences are common tools for protecting livestock and threatened species from wild dogs. In some states government grants are periodically available to assist land managers with establishment and repair costs. 

Cluster fencing in Queensland

As with all wild dog control programs, multiple tools utilized in a strategic and coordinated manner will always yield better results than relying on just one and fences are no different. Used in conjunction with baiting and trapping, well-maintained fences can be a highly effective barrier to predators. Maintenance and repairs are vital to maintain the integrity of exclusion fences. Ongoing and effective coordinated management programs are still required outside fenced areas to reduce wild dog populations limiting the risk of wild dogs getting through fences when holes inevitably appear. 

Different fences are available for varying conditions and uses.


The Exclusion Fencing Construction Unit

Guardian animals

Successful wild dog management relies on the application of a range of control tools and livestock guardian dogs can play an effective role in protecting livestock from predators. Breeds available in Australia for this purpose include Maremmas, Anatolian Shepherds, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and the Central Asian Ovcharka, with Maremmas being by far the most numerous. Guardian dogs require time to bond with their livestock and car must be taken to ensure they are trained properly before being released into paddocks with livestock Guardian dogs live with the livestock and actively move them away from perceived danger or will defend them from predators where necessary.  

Producer Andy Bowran with his guardian dogs

Wild dog control programs are still required to keep wild dog populations at low densities as guardian animals may not be able to defend themselves against large packs of wild dog dogs. Guardian dogs living extensively with livestock in an unsupervised fashion should be de-sexed to avoid cross breeding with wild dogs. 

To find out more about guardian dogs including training, housing and general advice, read the Best Practice Manual for the Use of Livestock Guardian Dogs (2011), by Linda van Bommel

Other animals such as donkeys, alpacas and llamas, may be used to guard livestock from predators.

Case Studies

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