Killing wild dogs may increase attacks

14 Dec, 2014 01:00 AM
When pack structures are disrupted by deaths, the instability can result in more breeding pairs

BACK in 2002, a group of researchers in the Northern Territory suggested that baiting of wild dogs interfered with pack structures in ways that could lead to more livestock killings than if the dogs hadn’t been baited at all.

Now a study of wolves in the United States has come to a similar conclusion.

A Washington State University study found that as wolf control measures increased, the odds of attacks on livestock increased four per cent for sheep and 5–6pc for cattle - up until wolf deaths exceeded the wolf population growth rate of 25pc.

But it’s not that more wolves mean fewer attacks.

“Consistent with expectations,” wrote researchers Robert Wielgus and Kaylie Peebles, “each additional breeding pair on the landscape increased the expected mean number of cattle depredated by 8 to 9 per cent and each additional wolf on the landscape increased the expected mean number of sheep depredated by 6 per cent.”

The issue with control seems to lie in its effect on wolf pack structures. Packs don’t form randomly, they are a conservative evolutionary response for survival.

When pack structures are disrupted by deaths, the instability can result in more breeding pairs of wolves because old dominance hierarchies break down.

“Furthermore, loss of a breeder in a pack during or near breeding season can result in dissolution of territorial social groups, smaller pack sizes and compensatory density dependent effects – such as increased per-capita reproduction,” the researchers wrote.

“Culling of wolves may also cause frequent breeder turnover and related social disruption – which can result in reduced effective prey use (through loss of knowledge of prey sources and ability to subdue prey) which may also result in increased livestock depredations.”

They concluded that, “although lethal control is sometimes a necessary management tool in the near-term, we suggest that managers also consider testing non-lethal methods of wolf control because these methods might not be associated with increased depredations in the long-term”.


The impact of wild dog control on cattle, native and introduced herbivores and introduced predators in central Australia: Eldridge, S.R., Shakeshaft, B.J. & Nano, T.J. (2002). Read the article online.

Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations: Robert B. Wielgus, Kaylie A. Peebles. (2014). Read the article online.

Matthew Cawood

Matthew Cawood

is the national science and environment writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


11/03/2015 11:16:59 AM

Personally think the IA CRC has done excellent job (PB first time ever saying that of a CRC). New products, good research, everybody at table. Now what happens when it is wound up? What next? Back to farmer vs farmer, state dept vs state dept, and Feds washing hands clean. Please can we have a plan!
11/03/2015 10:08:28 AM

Given that feral animals and weeds are a very serious and very expensive threat to both agriculture and ecology in Australia, it would be good to see the conversation level rise above dismissive insults.
Frank Blunt
18/12/2014 11:25:37 AM

More left wing hippie crap !
15/12/2014 11:21:56 AM

In America if a wolf track is seen near a cow carcase, the government pays the value of the cow, no questions asked. Lets start with that.
15/12/2014 10:46:03 AM

Chick, wish 90% died up our way. Doesn't happen in our experience. Once a dog dies, the others nick off but they sure aren't dead.
15/12/2014 7:12:36 AM

what you hippies been smokin. dead dogs do nufin.
Jo Bloomfield
14/12/2014 12:50:25 PM

Dogs and ferals have always been a difficult problem, kill one feral (camels) to save feed for cattle actually creates food for another problem, the dogs that also impact. There has been floods and mice plagues south, while in the north I wonder if the abundance of food in the way of cane toads has impact. Crows have learnt to turn them and eat their guts I don't doubt dogs could do the same. Ferals, donkeys, horses are also a problem in the north and shoot to waste a food source.
Chick Olsson
14/12/2014 10:51:40 AM

Such absolute nonsense. When wild dogs are aerial baited at 40 baits per km, 90 % of dogs are killed.
14/12/2014 8:44:01 AM

The same phenomena has been observed in wild pigs in Indonesia.


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