Wild dogs are a significant pest animal in Australia. They are widespread in Queensland, the Northern Territory and much of Western Australia and South Australia, as well as being present in parts of New South Wales and Victoria. Wild dogs are known to have a significant detrimental effect on the agricultural sector (market impacts), but they also cause non-market impacts in terms of adverse social impacts and environmental damage. These impacts are described in more detail below.
In general, wild dogs are considered pest animals because of their attacks on livestock and are subject to control. Their legal status varies across the states and territories, with the dingo regarded as a regulated native species under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Most states and territories have a wild dog management strategy, either as a stand-alone strategy or as part of a broader vertebrate pest strategy. These strategies are based on both the individual state legislation and a national approach, aligning to the Australian Pest Animal Strategy over time.
Management of wild dogs is mostly conducted by landholders, who bear the cost of production losses from wild dog attacks. In some areas wild dog control is undertaken by the relevant state government or is financially supported by local government.
Improved wild dog management is a challenge because of the nature of the problem. It requires coordinated action by all landholders. No individual landholder can capture the full benefits of wild dog control if their neighbours are not taking similar action. The management of wild dogs is further complicated by different types of landholders with different objectives. Private landholders are generally seeking to run profitable farm businesses, while governments managing public land including national parks or state forests have other goals. Where private landholders share boundaries with public lands the management of wild dogs can be particularly difficult, with the public land becoming a home and potential ‘refuge’ for wild dogs.
The challenge facing government is to implement policies and programs that support coordinated wild dog management in order to ensure the benefits of control are fully realised, but to do this in a way that does not take over, or crowd out, the private investments that individual landholders have an incentive to make in wild dog control.