Scientists Claim Most "Wild Dogs" are Dingoes

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Wild dog or dingo? It's a passionately debated topic, with scientists stepping into the debate claiming they have scientific confirmation that virtually all of Australia's wild dogs are mostly dingo.

A study published this week examined 5000 genetic samples from wild dogs and found 99 per cent of the animals were either pure or mostly dingo. Only 31 animals were found to be actual feral dogs.

The latest study is sure to disrupt efforts to control a significant farm pest. Dogs cause stock deaths across an estimated 66 per cent of all farms nationally, costing an estimated $100 million annually.

The Victor Harbour Times reported "We don't have a feral dog problem in Australia," says conservation biologist Kylie Cairns from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

"They just aren't established in the wild. There are rare times when a dog might go bush, but it isn't contributing significantly to the dingo population."

Like all studies the devil is in the detail: Of the 5,039 samples analyzed in the study, 33.7 percent were pure dingoes, 30.4 percent were probable dingoes, and 34.7 percent were canids with greater than 50-75 percent dingo ancestry.

"In Victoria, the dingo is legally a threatened, protected species whereas wild dogs are declared as pest animals".

But in some areas of Victoria, the dingo has been declared unprotected wildlife and can be controlled "where they threaten livestock".

"The legal protection of dingoes in South Australia depends on whether they are "inside or outside" the 5400km long dog fence".

"Western Australia's policy is to control all wild dogs, including dingoes in and near livestock grazing areas".

They are protected for their "cultural and ecological significance" in national parks and nature reserves.

Wild dogs may be fair game for baiting, shooting and trapping programs run by landholders and governments, dingoes are often not.

Dingoes cannot be reliably visually distinguished from wild dogs, making it impossible to ensure they are not inadvertently destroyed in wild dog control programs.

Of the remaining one per cent, roughly half were dog-dominant hybrids and the other half feral dogs.

"We don't have a feral dog problem in Australia," conservation biologist and lead author of the study Dr Kylie Cairns said.

"They just aren't established in the wild".

"There are rare times when a dog might go bush, but it isn't contributing significantly to the dingo population."

It will be interesting to see how this study and opinions affect dog control Australia wide.

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