Dingoes and kangaroos

Working together to build fences – community-led action

Maintaining balance: managing vertebrate predators in the presence of livestock

Dingo diet in north-west WA

Working together to build fences – community-led action

In Western Australia, wild dog predation on livestock represents a significant economic threat to livestock producers, with flow-on effects to associated industries such as transport and shearing.   The Rangelands Cell Fencing Program was launched in February 2018 as a trial to determine if cell fencing is a cost-effective approach for protecting and renewing small livestock enterprises.

As part of the program, four Rangelands pastoral groups have been granted funding to erect cell fences on their properties and assess their impacts on wild dog predation, and a range of other economic and ecological indicators.

As part of a social research project funded by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), a team of researchers from the University of New England and Murdoch University will monitor the roll out of the program across at least 3 of the 4 cell fence sites.

The main objectives of the project are to:

  1. Document landholder motivations for participating in the cell fence program, and assess variability of motivations within each pastoral group, also across groups.
  2. Document challenges that arise during the rollout of the project for landholders inside and outside of the fences.
  3. Assess overall levels of project effectiveness (including, in consultation with DIPIRD, a cost-benefit analysis of the project in terms of economic, ecological and social outcomes). Identify factors that distinguish between more successful and less successful rollouts.
  4. Make recommendations for improving future cell fence initiatives in WA.  Practical advice for facilitators responsible for the roll out of new initiatives

This project will suit a student based in WA who is keen to get involved with community-led action.

The project has funding and a scholarship attached.  Please contact Trish Fleming t.fleming@murdoch.edu.au for details

 

Maintaining balance: managing vertebrate predators in the presence of livestock

Predator-proof fencing has increased in popularity as a means of reducing predator access to livestock, and the WA State government has just announced an investment of $4 million in four new fenced areas.  Predator-proof fencing is used to protect varying size properties (‘cells’ or ‘clusters’).

These projects involve extensive fieldwork under remote conditions. You need to be an independent worker, who is capable and confident under a range of challenging situations. A valid manual driver’s licence is essential. Benefits of working within this collaborative environment include working directly alongside industry (the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development), undertaking a project that is relevant and beneficial for livestock producers, and working within a supportive mentoring environment to gain relevant practical skills that will increase employability.

Project 1.  Management of vertebrate populations within cell-fencing.

As an unintended consequence, cluster fences also influence the population growth of native and feral herbivores, which compete for grazing and in turn can affect livestock production.  This project aims to:

  • Determine the impact of cell fences on macropod densities in the southern rangelands
  • Determine if it is possible to reduce wild dog densities and impacts by managing native herbivore densities using water
  • Evaluate use of permanent Canid Pest Ejectors within fencing for sustained reduction of wild dog densities

This project will suit a student who is interested in wildlife behavioural ecology.

 

Project 2.  Viability of manipulating predation and total grazing pressure for increased small stock production.

This project aims to:

  • Determine level of wild dog control effort (baiting, CPEs and shooting) to remove wild dogs from cell fences at different scales
  • Determine optimum scale of cell fencing for effective management of wild dogs
  • Determine if effective predator and herbivore management allow producers to return to/increase small stock production
  • Inform optimal harvesting regimes for feral goats and macropods for effective population management within cells
  • Identify barriers to small stock husbandry in the presence of effective predator and herbivore management

This project will suit a student who is interested in economic and wildlife population modelling.

 

Project 3: what happens to feral cats when you remove wild dogs?

The mesopredator release hypothesis predicts that removal of top order predators (e.g. wild dogs) can release suppression of smaller predators (e.g. feral cats), and therefore can increase predation pressure on native species that the smaller predator preys upon.  Does construction of a predator-proof fence and control of the wild dog population within this cell mean that feral cats numbers increase?  This project aims to:

  • Identify feral cat population density inside and outside cluster fence sites
  • compare changes in feral cat population in the presence of intensive wild dog control
  • Identify changes in small mammal and reptile communities

This project will suit a student who is interested in wildlife behavioural ecology.

Dingo diet in north-west WA

Dingoes are the largest terrestrial predator in Australia.  Little is known about their biology in north-west WA, an area where cattle farming is the primary land use and the landscape is considered the last refuge for many threatened species.  Understanding their diet will inform management strategies.  For example, we have a collection of dingo scats from around seismic lines.  These tracks increase access to bushland for dingoes (which preferentially use tracks), and may change their diet.