Wild dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

Not Wanted!Status: In Tasmania, the control and management of dogs (domestic and wild) is governed by the Dog Control Act 2000, Dog Control Regulations 2001, National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 and National Parks and Reserved Land Regulations 2009.

Wild dogs are defined as any dog not relying on human assistance for shelter or food. They are sometimes also referred to as 'feral dogs' or 'feral domestic dogs'.

Dogs at large are defined as any dog not under the effective control of a person in a public place or on premises without the consent of the occupier.

Risk Assessment: Wild dogs have not been risk assessed by DPIPWE. Wild dog management strategies exist for most Australian states and territories.


Identifying features

In Tasmania there is no characteristic wild dog description as they vary in size, form and coat colour depending on the type of domestic dog that has escaped into the wild.

wild dog, feral dog

Wild dogs vary in size, coat colour and form
Image: Lee Allen, Courtesy of IA CRC


History

Both dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) and domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) may be categorised as wild dogs on mainland Australia.

The dingo was brought to mainland Australia by the aboriginal people approximately 4000 years ago but never reached Tasmania.

Domestic dogs were first brought into Australia and Tasmania by European settlers and their release (both accidental and deliberate) into the wild has continued since. In Tasmania, wild dogs are generally domestic dogs that have been abandoned or lost (commonly while hunting). Tasmania has been fortunate to not have significant problems with wild dogs.


Distribution

In Tasmania, small packs of wild dogs are occasionally identified in remote rural locations or isolated areas of crown and reserved land, such as World Heritage Area land in the Central Highlands. However, the problem is not regarded as being widespread. Dogs at large are considered to be a larger problem in Tasmania, especially in urban and peri-urban areas.

Wild dogs occur in all habitat types on mainland Australia, including alpine, desert, temperate forests, rainforests, grasslands, and agricultural and urban environments. They have flexible foraging strategies and a consequently varied diet, allowing them to live in most environments. They occur in highest numbers around peri-urban areas and in areas with abundant prey populations, such as rabbits.

View recorded distribution information in the Natural Values Atlas

View recorded distribution information in PestSmart


Environmental Impacts

Across mainland Australia, wild dogs attack livestock, prey on native fauna, may spread endemic diseases to humans and livestock, potentially host exotic diseases, hybridise with dingoes, and threaten human health, safety and well-being. Wild dog attacks on livestock and pets, lethal or otherwise, also cause emotional distress to landholders.

Estimates of the impacts on the Australian economy from production losses due to predation on livestock, disease transmission in livestock and control costs range from $40 million to $60 million annually.

Wild dogs will generally form small to large packs, with severity of impacts increasing with the size of the pack. They can pose a significant threat to livestock because they readily prey on poultry, sheep, goats and cattle.

Wild dogs prey on a variety of native animals of all sizes, including mammals, birds and reptiles. Common prey includes small to medium sized mammals such as native mice, potoroos, bandicoots and wallabies. Wild dogs have been implicated in the decline of several native species on mainland Australia.


Reproduction

Wild dogs are typically annual breeders on mainland Australia, with mating occurring in April-May. However, this may vary depending on climate and resource availability. Wild dogs are capable of producing pups more than once each year, although environmental and energetic constraints probably prevent this in wild living dogs.

Pups are born about two months after breeding, with the average litter size being five but with one to eleven pups being possible.


Control measures

Wild dogs are generally secretive, highly mobile and may have a large territorial range. Their presence may often go unnoticed by land owners.

The destruction of identified wild dog populations should be given the highest priority by all land managers. All sightings of wild dogs should be reported to the appropriate managing authority for the area in which the sightings occurred.

Destruction of wild dogs is often difficult and resource intensive, requiring a long term management approach using a range of tools and techniques.

In Tasmania, the management options for wild dogs are trapping using cage traps and shooting. Exclusion fencing and guard animals may also be used on the Australian mainland but are not considered to be required in Tasmania due to the limited nature of the problem here.

wild dog, feral dog

Wild dogs often maintain large territories
Image: Ben Serafin, Courtesy of IA CRC


Prior to selecting management options, monitoring is recommended to gather information about wild dog numbers, distribution, behaviour and movements. This is vital for effective management and should be undertaken prior to finalising a management plan.

Where a pack of wild dogs is established, trapping and radio-collaring of dogs should be considered. Wild dogs are highly social and tracking radio-collared dogs will enable other members of the pack to be located. Following destruction of the pack, the radio-collared dogs can then be destroyed.

The Invasive Species Branch can provide advice, guidance and support to land owners and managers about the destruction of wild dog packs.


Did you know?

Wild dogs on mainland Australia have been shown to indirectly reduce the impacts of foxes and feral cats on small prey species of native wildlife.


Further information

Download the Guidelines for Managing Wild Dogs:

  Guideline - Managing Wild Dogs   (229Kb)

For advice on wild dog management in Tasmania, contact the Invasive Species Branch on 03 6777 2200.

For problems with dogs at large or wandering dogs, please contact your local council.

The PestSmart Toolkit provides information and guidance on best-practice invasive animal management for various animals including wild dogs, foxes, feral pigs and feral cats.


See other invasive mammals:

Foxes | European rabbits | Feral cats | Feral goats | Feral pigs | Ferrets

See other invasive species:

Birds | Freshwater species | Other species

Contact

Invasive Species Enquiries
Invasive Species Branch
165 Westbury Road
PROSPECT TAS 7250
Phone: 03 6777 2200
Fax: 03 6336 5453
Email: invasivespecies@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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