How much dog in the dingo?

Wild dog DNA to help with control

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NSW Department of Primary Industries is taking DNA samples from wild dogs submitted by a network of pest animal managers across the country and from dogs which have been captured, collared and released as part of research studies since 2004. Photo: NSW DPI

NSW Department of Primary Industries is taking DNA samples from wild dogs submitted by a network of pest animal managers across the country and from dogs which have been captured, collared and released as part of research studies since 2004. Photo: NSW DPI

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The latest on wild dog control.

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How much dingo is in the dog or how much dog in the dingo is the question researchers will be able to answer soon with results from a DNA project.

With wild dogs accounting for $22 million a year in livestock losses across the state, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is taking DNA samples from wild dogs that are submitted for the research project.

The DNA samples are sent by a network of pest animal managers across the country and are from dogs which have been captured, collared and released.

Preliminary findings from north east Victoria are expected to be available in April while those for north east NSW will be released in May.

The Wild Dog Geneflow project, which was originally partially funded by the DPI, Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS), Western LLS and NSW Farmers' western wild dog coordinator, Bruce Duncan, sources samples from other states as part of collaborative research for the former Invasive Animals CRC and now for the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.

Riverina, Murray, Central West and South East LLS have also provided samples and Zoological Genetics Limited is undertaking the analyses.

NSW DPI research scientist Peter Fleming said it was testing the DNA for a number of reasons including the relatedness of wild dogs, to determine wild dog purity and engage the community in effective wild dog control.

"By knowing which dog is related to which other dogs, we can work out what size management scale local people have to consider for effective control of livestock predation," Dr Fleming said.

"To determine wild dog purity. That is, how much dingo in the dog or how much dog in the dingo.

"We can also work out which neighbouring groups need to liaise for better control."

Dr Fleming said it started with a PhD project in 2007-2009, predominantly in Western Australia, which was mainly addressing the purity question and showed that most wild dogs in NSW were cross-bred dogs with varying levels of dingo genetics.

Then he said the LLS-based work started in 2015 and 2016, and samples had been gradually accumulated and tested as funding became available.

He said some of the the DNA samples came from dogs killed on roads and in control programs, with some samples dating back to 2004.

By doing this he said they hoped to achieve better management by using the DNA relatedness and distribution information to help local and regional control groups better target their control and vigilance to the appropriate scale.

"The information can also be used for dingo conservation in places where that is desired and legally possible," Dr Fleming said.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said wild dogs were undoubtedly a massive problem for farmers, particularly out west with the government committed to tackling this issue head-on through a coordinated state-wide approach.

By working with local stakeholders and various government agencies, Mr Marshall said the government was rolling out a range of research projects, baiting programs and of course extending the Wild Dog Fence.

"Once completed, this fence will be the biggest of its kind in the world and will be one of our greatest assets in the fight against wild dogs," Mr Marshall said.

Western Local Land Services is rolling out a number of programs and projects this year including seasonal predator programs with large scale aerial and ground baiting programs targeting wild dogs, foxes and cats.

Wild dog baiting is now underway and is expected to finish March 15.

In 2019 across an autumn and spring baiting program, Western Local Land Services worked with nearly 400 landholders who were members of pest management groups to deliver a coordinated aerial and ground baiting program, deploying nearly 300,000 baits over an area of 12 million hectares.

There is also the Western Tracks GPS collaring project, which will monitor control program efficiency and predator movement through the landscape. It involves trapping wild dogs and feral pigs, fitting with a GPS tracking collar, releasing them from where they are trapped, and monitoring movements and interactions over 12 months. This project will run through to mid-2021.

In addition to that there is the professional wild dog controller program.

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