It was a striking, and for some, uncomfortable, image.
The term “wild dog” collectively refers to dingoes, feral domestic dogs and their hybrids
A researcher says the majority of “wild dogs” in western Queensland are native dingoes
- The National Wild Dog Management coordinator disagrees and says differentiating how many dogs are dingoes is “futile”
Golden “wild dogs” strung from trees off the side of a tourist road in outback Queensland.
DNA testing has revealed those so-called wild dogs were in fact “pure” dingoes.
“They were like 99.9 per cent, which is the highest value that you can get from the DNA testing that we do,” genetic researcher Kylie Cairns said.
“It confirmed what we already knew from previous work in and around western Queensland, that the dingoes in that area are pure dingoes.
“We’ve previously tested hundreds of samples out of Queensland, and overwhelmingly, the animals test as being pure dingoes, particularly if you’re in remote or more central Queensland.”
Dr Cairns, from the University of New South Wales, says hybridisation between native dingoes and feral dogs is much less common than previously thought.
A dingo by any other name?
“Largely, I think the community, including livestock graziers, would be unaware that when you’re talking about wild dogs that that means dingoes,” Dr Cairns said.
“I think the term wild dog is confusing to a lot of people because they do not realise that term includes dingoes. They think that wild dogs and dingoes are different things.
“A lot of people believe because there’s been this myth going around for decades, that there’s no pure dingoes left in the wild … we know that’s not true. … there’s very, very little hybridisation.”
But National Wild Dog Management coordinator at the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions Greg Mifsud said previous research has shown there are plenty of hybrids in outback Queensland.
“It’s very difficult to know unless you go and DNA every one of them,” Mr Mifsud said.
“In previous work done in 2011, out of 357 samples that were analysed, only 20 per cent of those could be considered dingo, and the majority of those were crossbreed.
“The difficulty in giving something a single name depending on what they are and where you’re located is very difficult with these animals because they crossbreed with domestic dogs very readily.”
Mr Mifsud said it would have been very easy for one of the pure dingoes strung from the tree to have mated with a domestic dog.
“If one of those bitches mates with someone’s kelpie then automatically they’re crossbreed,” he said.
‘It is futile’
Mr Misfud disagreed with claims graziers did not know they were dealing with pure dingoes.
While he discourages hanging dead animals from trees, he said native dingoes, hybrids and feral dogs all had to be managed.
“From a management perspective, it is futile because we’ll manage the impacts of dogs, whether they’re dingoes or crossbreeds or wild dogs, whatever you want to term them, we manage for their impact,” Mr Misfud said.
Woolgrower Andrew Martin said attacks on livestock by wild dogs, including pure dingoes, could have devastating impacts on graziers.
“The original reason for calling them wild dogs was purely political correctness.
“People had a wild objection about 30 years ago to things being called dingoes and us wanting to advocate for the destruction of some, so we called them wild dogs and everyone settled down.”
Need for ‘nuanced approach’
Central west Queensland grazier Angus Emmott, who took the image of the dingoes hanging from the tree last year, thinks the semantics are important.
“By calling them wild dogs it allows us on the land to bait the whole landscape and justify it, but they’re not wild dogs,” Mr Emmott said.
“We need to accept number one that they’re dingoes, Australian native animal, and number two to look at how we’re going to manage them.
“We need to sit down with the best evidence and representatives from agriculture and we need to work out a better and more nuanced approach.”