Alistair Brightman

Feral cat, goanna numbers not affected by dingo cull: report

THE culling of dingoes in Australia to protect livestock does not open the way for other predators to take their place, new research found.

The research results have been published in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology by the Invasive Animals CRC in Australia.

The research found that while culling dingoes and red foxes are temporarily suppressed, feral cats and goannas are not affected.

Invasive Animals CRC and Biosecurity Queensland's Benjamin Allen, who led the study, said the results suggested planning of culls around calving time to save livestock from attacks should not harm other animals in the ecosystem.

Mr Allen said top predators like dingoes were often culled to protect livestock.

It had been suggested this practice could lead to increased numbers of next level predators such as red foxes, feral cats and goannas.

The University of Queensland and the Invasive Animals CRC researchers set up specific areas with no baiting, and areas where dingoes were killed using poisoned bait within nine large cattle ranches across Australia - in the same way as is normally practised in ranches.

"In any particular season, at any site, there were more dingoes, foxes, cats, and goannas in unbaited rather than baited areas demonstrating that the mesopredators did not benefit from lower numbers of dingoes, and in the case of foxes, were also killed by the same bait," Mr Allen said.

Under wild dog management regimes based on infrequent and patchy application of poisoned baits across a landscape, dingo populations recovered to pre-control levels within months, he said.

"This means that patchy and periodic baiting does not create the conditions required for mesopredators to increase. This helps us understand why, without widespread comprehensive and frequent wild dog control, dingo numbers in Australia have increased to high numbers".