Wild dogs are controlled on most Australian rangelands to mitigate their impact on livestock losses and the threat they pose to the profits of pastoralists.
In addition to fencing – targeted trapping and shooting, and broadscale deployment of toxic baits is also carried out. Despite control efforts, predation by wild dogs has contributed to a shift in livestock choice in the southern rangelands of Western Australia (WA). There has been a decline in numbers of sheep and significant move to cattle production across most of this area, as cattle can be more resilient to wild dog predation.
Whether contemporary control practices effectively reduce the abundance of wild dogs, and whether wild dog populations benefit biodiversity are unanswered questions in the Western Australian rangelands. The impact of wild dog control on native small vertebrates (small mammals and reptiles) and the effect of wild dog abundance on rangeland vegetations is also yet to fully explored in Western Australia.
Murdoch University PhD Candidate Moses Omogbeme is funded through the CISS project Assessment of the biodiversity, economic and productivity gains from exclusion fencing (WA), where he is examining these above research questions for the next two years.
His study locations are within the Murchison Regional Vermin Cell (MRVC) which encloses a landmass of ~75,000 km² (larger than the whole of Tasmania), with three DBCA managed lands, 52 pastoral stations, and the small “Hub Cell” (which encloses four pastoral stations).
To do this, monitoring is being carried out across 36 sampling transects nested within six study sites, inside and outside wild dog-proof fences. A combination of Passive Track Index (recording footprint counts on sand pads) and on-track camera traps (Plate 1) is being used to monitor relative abundance and activities of wild dogs, native and non-native herbivores. Off-track drift fences with camera traps (Plate 2) have been set up along sampling tracks to examine small mammal and reptile community structure. Site locations were standardised to minimise inter-site environmental variation in geology, vegetation type and standing surface water.
A total of 108 motion-sensing cameras (Reconyx Hyperfire) were deployed for this study between July and August 2020, and the data is currently being analysed which will comprise part of his PhD, which will be completed by 2023.
We look forward to learning of the results.
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