Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Dingoes have been largely eradicated in sheep lands, but are widespread and common in cattle country on the other side of the Dingo Barrier Fence. Pockets of dingoes, and/or their hybrids, survive in the Great Dividing Range and down to the coast in New South Wales and Victoria. Studies in central Australia demonstrate how rabbits are the dingo's main prey. That is so even in drought; but as rabbits become scarce, dingoes turn on red kangaroos as alternate prey. Populations of both species are suppressed at low levels by such predation for some time, even after good rains return. In other words, the dingo is on our side as a pest controller.

A Dingo Barrier Fence separates sheeplands in eastern and southern Australia from cattle country further west in inland and northern Australia. It was once c. 9,000 km long but was truncated in Queensland, and now is 5,531 km long. It also separates abundance of red kangaroos in the sheeplands from scarcity which begins immediately on the other side of the Fence. The highest density is in north-western New South Wales, measured in the 1970s at 12/km2, cf. 0.07 km2 across the Fence in South Australia. There are other disjuncts across the Dingo Fence. There are four species of kangaroo in New South Wales with only the red kangaroo in South Australia. Neither are there feral goats or pigs on the South Australian side.

A recent paper argues that other factors than dingo control lead to increased populations of red kangaroos in north-western New South Wales (Newsome et al. 2001). Analyses indicate insufficient rainfall to produce and support current red kangaroo densities. The causes are likely to be: increased run-off of rainfall from catchments due to over-grazing by sheep, rabbits and feral goats; the presence of a large geomorphic basin west of the Barrier Range in New South Wales which impounds most water shed from the Range.

That predation can suppress rabbit populations was tested at Yathong Nature Reserve, central New South Wales. Following good rains post-drought, very low populations of rabbits increased by up to c. 8-fold in one breeding season where foxes and feral cats were persistently shot. Rabbit numbers remained suppressed, however, where foxes and cats were not shot. Indeed, after two years of shooting, rabbits on the shot site were well on their way to another eruption, except that another drought intervened. Similar results emerged from persistent control of foxes around isolated rock wallaby colonies in Western Australia. Such colonies increased in numbers, while in one case with no such protection, the colony went extinct. Such studies have been followed by similar fox control experiments around remnant colonies of mala, bandicoots and bettongs.

Allen, L., 1997. What do dingoes eat? In Beauty and the Beast. Issue 3. Dept. of Natural Resources, Queensland.
Banks, P., 1997. Predator-prey interactions between foxes, rabbits and native mammals of the Australian Alps. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Sydney: Sydney.
Banks, P., Dickman, C. and Newsome, A., 1998. Ecological costs of feral predator control: foxes and rabbits. J. Wildl. Manage. 62: 766-772.
Breckwoldt, R., 1988 A Very Elegant Animal the Dingo. Angus and Robertson: Sydney.
Catling, P., 1995. Why are red foxes absent from some eucalypt forests in eastern New South Wales? Wildl. Res. 22: 535-546.
Caughley, G., Shepherd, N. and Short, J., 1987 Kangaroos: Their Ecology and Management in the Sheep Rangelands of Australia. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
Caughley, G., Grigg, G., Caughley, J. and Hill, G., 1980. Does dingo predation control densities of kangaroos and emus? Aust. Wildl. Res. 7: 1-12.
Corbett, L. 1995 The Dingo in Australia and Asia. Australian Natural History Series. UNSW Press: Sydney.
Corbett, L. and Newsome, A., 1987. The feeding ecology of the dingo III. Dietary relationships with widely fluctuating prey populations in arid Australia: an hypothesis of alternation of predation. Oecologia 74: 215-227.
Crooks, K. and Soulé, M., 1999. Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature 400: 563-566.
Denny, M. 1980. Red Kangaroo Arid Zone Studies. Final Report to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service: Canberra.
Fleming, P. and Korn, T., 1989. Predation of livestock by wild dogs in eastern New South Wales. Aust. Rangel. J. 11: 61-66.
Glen, A. and Short, J., 2000. Control of dingoes in New South Wales in the period 1883-1930 and its likely impact on their distribution and abundance. Aust. Zool. 31:432-42.
Gresser, S., 1996. Anti-predator behaviour of the common brush-tail possum ( Trichosurus vulpecula) at Burrendong Dam. B. Sc. Honours Thesis, University of Sydney: Sydney.
Jarman, P. and Wright, G., 1993. Macropod studies at Wallaby Creek. IX. Exposure and responses of eastern grey kangaroos to dingoes. Wildl. Res. 20: 833-843.
Kerin, J., 2001. The 1999 Review of the Western Division of New South Wales. Rangeland J. 23: 33-43
Kinnear, J., Onus, M. and Sumner, N., 1998. Fox control and rock wallaby population dynamics. Aust. Wildl. Res. 15: 435-450.
Marsack, P. and Campbell, G., 1990. Feeding behaviour and diet of dingoes in the Nullarbor region, Western Australia. Aust. Wildl. Res. 17: 349-357.
Newsome, A., 1990. The control of vertebrate pests by vertebrate predators. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5: 187-191.
Newsome, A. and Catling, P. 1979. Habitat preferences of mammals inhabiting heathlands of temperate, coastal, montane and alpine regions of southeastern Australia. Pp. 301-316 Heathlands and Related Shrublands of the World. A. Descriptive Studies. ed. by R. Specht. Elsevier: Amsterdam.
Newsome, A., Catling, P., Cooke, B. and Smyth, R., 2001. Two ecological universes separated by the Dingo Barrier Fence: Interactions between landscape, herbivory and carnivory with and without dingoes. Rangeland J. 23 (in press).
Newsome, A., Parer, I. and Catling, P., 1989. Prolonged prey suppression by carnivores-predatorremoval experiments. Oecologia 78: 458-467.
Newsome, A., Pech, R., Smyth, R., Banks, P. and Dickman, C., 1997. Potential impacts on Australian Native Fauna of Rabbit Calicivirus Disease. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia: Canberra.
Pavlov, P., 1987. An ecological basis for feral pig control in tropical Queensland. Pp. 195-202 in Vertebrate Pest Control Conference. Queensland Lands Protection Board: Brisbane.
Pech, R., Sinclair, A., Newsome, A. and Catling, P., 1992. Limits to predator regulation of rabbits in Australia: evidence from predator-removal experiments. Oecologia 89: 102-112.
Pickett, K., Hik, D., Newsome, A. and Pech, R., (in prep.) Sub-lethal impacts of predation by introduced Red Fox on common Brushtail Possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) in New South Wales, Australia.
Robertshaw, J. and Harden, R., 1986. The ecology of the dingo in north-eastern New South Wales. IV. Prey selection by dingoes ands its effect on the major prey species, the swamp wallaby, Wallabia bicolor, (Desmarest), Aust. Wildl. Res. 13: 141-163.
Stokes, E., 1986 To the Inland Sea. Charles Sturt's Expedition 1844-45. Century Hutchinson: Australia.
Thompson, J. and Fleming, P., 1991. The cost of aerial baiting for wild dog management in north-eastern New South Wales. Aust. Rangel. J. 13: 47-56.
Thompson, P., 1992. The behavioural ecology of dingoes in north-western Australia. III. Hunting and feeding behaviour and diet. Aust. Wildl. Res. 19: 531-541.
Watts, C. and Aslin, H., 1981 The Rodents of Australia. Angus and Robertson: Sydney.
Woodall, P., 1983. Distribution and population dynamics of dingoes ( Canis familiaris) and feral pigs ( Sus scrofa) in Queensland, 1945-1976. J. Appl. Ecol. 20: 85-95.
This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal