Bait practice research to improve wild dog control

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Two Murdoch University research projects are aiming to improve baiting practice to help reduce harmful wild dog numbers.

Wild dogs, including free-living domestic dogs, dingoes or hybrids, cause millions of dollars of damage to sheep, goat and cattle production in Australia every year, and Murdoch researchers have been investigating ways to improve their population control for the last five years.

Led by Professor Trish Fleming, the research has already provided insights into practical approaches to baiting to improve their attractiveness to wild dogs, and found evidence that older dogs in populations that have been baited for a long time develop learned aversion to the baits.

One of the new projects will identify the factors that make a bait more attractive to wild dogs, including the type of meat used and its presentation, and investigate further bait aversion, with the aim of improving bait uptake.

The second project will investigate alternative storage methods for baits to ensure they do not lose toxicity, and identify differences in their manufacture between different areas in WA.

“Baiting is the principal method of wild dog control used in Australia so it is important we seek to refine its practice,” Professor Fleming said.

The research team will be working at locations in the Meekathara and Pilbara Recognised Biosecurity Groups (RGB) to carry out bait trials with both long-term baited and bait-naïve wild dog populations. 

They will also be testing whether wild dogs can detect the scent of 1080—the poison used in baits.

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Since the publication of this article, it has attracted a lot of commentary from people about the topic of baiting. Some appear to believe, wrongly, that this magazine is somehow involved or connected with the research being described in the article. We applaud anyone and everyone who is passionate about the welfare of animals. We welcome comments from readers who can add to, enhance, or shine a new light on the topics discussed in the article. We also reserve the right to block or delete any comments that are abusive, incorrect, defamatory, or that don’t add to the discussion in any meaningful way.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. What a hideous project!! 1080 has to be one of the most inhumane toxins mankind has ever developed and here we have a Veterinary practice mag supporting and promoting this study as a ‘good thing’ It should have been made clear, that by ‘wild dogs’ you mean Dingoes. A vital keystone species in the Australian environment. This is a project to assist in killing them more efficiently. Disgusted. How on earth did a project like this get ethics approval? That is what Vetpracticemag should be asking!!

    • If the dingoes hand not of been killed in the first place you wouldn’t have the wild dog problem, and you are just compounding the problem.
      Get out there and sight the wild dogs that are causing your problem and shoot them not poison every living thing.

  2. Gidday Guys, well I must say I am absolutely disgusted by this new story
    Bait practice research to improve wild dog control.
    Strewth, don’t you know how bad 1080 is ?
    How can you as Vet’s be involved in finding smarter ways to kill wild dogs and dingoes?
    I think you need to sit down and bait a dog and then stay there for all the time it takes to kill it with 1080, and then ask yourself ” Is this what I really want to get involved in ?”

    Dingoes are the top order predator that has kept the land in balance by over seeing wildlife management.
    Every time you kill a dingo you put things out of balance.

    But the real thing that boggles me, is that you are using Scientists and Vet’s to work out better ways to kill wild dogs and dingoes. This is insane. As vet’s it is your job to repair and heal animals, not find ways to kill them.

    • I have offered alternative options for wild dog control that have proven successful on several cattle stations already. Selective culling is far more beneficial to both the ecology of cattle properties as well as the ongoing productivity and Profits.

      While working as a wild dog controller it was evident that pure dingoes (which are scattered throughout both the Pilbara and Gascoyne regions) are beneficial and predictable, while hybrid wild dogs are detrimental to cattle stations both productively and ecologically.

      Blanket baiting with the aim of eradication is far from effective and has Contributed greatly to the situation that the regions have now. Erosion, land degradation and large roo populations are combatant to production, profits and ecological balance. Part of this is due to wild dog behaviour, the rest is due to poor land management while attempting to mitigate stock losses due to wild dog numbers.
      Dingoes can be used as a tool to help fight wild dog numbers, combat cat, roo, goat populations which goes a long way towards ecological balance and sustainable wild dog management practices.

      I am happy to discuss my methods and how they have helped others, all it takes is for someone to want to try something different.

  3. Let me remind you of a powerful presentation by Professor Chris Johnson at the 2017 AVA National Conference as to why lethal control of dingoes does not work and alternatives that do work, in summary:

    PROBLEMS WITH LETHAL CONTROL

    Lethal control has three main drawbacks.
    First, killing of wild predators is followed by increased predation on livestock as the removal of resident predators provokes rapid immigration from elsewhere, and the immigrants may be more likely to attack livestock than were the previous residents.

    Second, predators (aka dingoes) also provide important benefits for ecosystem function, landscape health and biodiversity, which can be lost or compromised if predator populations are suppressed. Large
    predators limit populations of wild herbivores that might otherwise become overabundant and damage habitat. They also suppress populations of mesopredators (cats and foxes) are often able to reach high densities in the absence of control by larger predators.

    Third, lethal control is an animal welfare issue in the case where killing is by poisons such as
    compound 1080, which cause prolonged suffering.

    EFFECTIVENESS OF NON_LETHAL MANAGEMENT

    Methods of non-lethal management include shepherding, fencing, deterrent devices,
    stock-husbandry practices and livestock guardian animals. All have been proven
    effective to varying degrees, and are more consistent in their effectiveness than lethal
    control of predators.

    GUARDIAN DOGS FOR WILDLIFE CONSERVATION

    Also, guardian dogs can support conservation of threatened wildlife, in several ways. In
    cases where the predators that attack livestock are species of high conservation value,
    deployment of guardian dogs can lead to reduced mortality in predator populations
    because livestock owners see less need to kill predators.

    In some situations, guardian dogs may also provide direct protection to wildlife species.
    This proved to be the case for seabirds at Middle Island, on the Victorian coast near
    Warrnambool, where regular patrols by maremmas deterred raids on the island by
    foxes and allowed recovery of a population of fairy penguins that had been on the point
    of extinction.

    Recent research has demonstrated effective nonlethal management of foxes and feral cats, includimg allowing dingoes to suppress foxes and cats; using fire management to limit hunting success of cats, based on ecological understanding of the responses of cats to fire; and managing grazing and
    other factors to maintain high structural diversity of vegetation and so provide refuge for
    prey of cats.

    CONCLUSION

    There is great potential for non-lethal management of predators in Australia and
    elsewhere in the world. Especially, guardian dogs are likely to be more widely used in
    place of lethal control of predators in livestock production, and possibly in wildlife
    conservation. The result of this should be better systems of animal management on
    farms, improved viability of livestock production, improved animal welfare, and more
    effective conservation of native species.

  4. There are farms that successfully use specially bred dog to guard stock in several countries including Australia against apex predators. These working dogs are put at risk because of this practice. Needless to say that this poison is inhumane and ought to be banned. First do no harm is a sentiment to strive towards.

  5. In regard to the use of poisons to ‘control animals’ : There are few, if any reasons, why we should have to use poison to kill animals, or even insects. With improvements in protecting crops and livestock overseas, new methods are being found to grow crops and keep domestic animals without relying on lethal control methods. For example, new fencing is available to keep predators away. Foxlights and Guardian dogs are becoming more popular. And large shade houses are being built to grow crops. Poisons such as 1080 are interfering with these humane systems. More funding is needed for the humane programs and less for the inhumane and/or lethal ones which should be phased out. It is a shame that the United Nations does not advocate more for humane programs, so it is left to individual nations to try and take the initiative and go forward.

  6. 1080 toxin is a horrible death.
    As most deaths are.
    Wild roaming dogs and hybrid dogs inhabit the agricultural area of the south west.
    The balance of watching sheep maimed and left to die is also a horrible thing to see.
    Much research is being done to find alternatives now.
    PAPP is one.
    We all need a result that fits everyone’s goals and needs.

  7. This is highly distressing, but not surprising to me. 1080 is inhumane, but a few years ago after my pet was killed by dogs my vet recommended 1080. I was shocked that people were still using this stuff. My first memories of a child 40 years ago were of my father’s dogs going mad with this poison and having to be shot. However, as a researcher I decided to have an open mind and research the subject. I was shocked at how older research and research from other countries who have chosen to ban this poison has been ignored in favor of “research” by organisations vested interests. The way this subject has been manipulated is outstanding and resembles the smoking propaganda years ago.
    I urge vets to google a dog dying of this poison. Watch it through. Do your own independent research. Consider vested interest and generalisations when placing weight on a research article. After researching, I came to the conclusion that 1080 remains an inhumane and dangerous poison. I hope that vets will also do their own research and consider that two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because a dog hunts or an animal is a pest species, does not make it OK to torture an animal to death. Do not loose sight of why you became a vet. Speak out against 1080.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228620466_Is_sodium_fluoroacetate_1080_a_humane_poison

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