Myths and realities (FAQs)
- Are Fraser Island dingoes dying out?
- Have dingo-deterrent fences and grids adversely affected the Fraser Island dingoes?
- How does tourism affect the dingoes on Fraser Island?
- Why do some Fraser Island dingoes look thin?
- Do Fraser Island dingoes have enough natural food to eat?
- Why is feeding dingoes a bad idea?
- Are feeding stations necessary?
- What does 'human food' mean?
- Why is hazing used and does it harm the Fraser Island dingoes?
- Why are the ears of some of the dingoes on Fraser Island tagged?
- Do the ear tags stop the dingo from hunting?
- How do rangers catch the dingoes to give them identity tags?
- Do dingoes get hurt during identification?
- How do wild dingoes behave?
- How does an aggressive dingo behave?
- How does a dingo become a 'high-risk' dingo?
- Why are high-risk dingoes euthanised and not relocated?
- Where can we see dingoes on Fraser Island?
- Why do the national park rangers monitor the dingo population?
- Why do some dingoes have to be euthanised?
- What happens when I report a dingo interaction?
Fraser Island dingoes keep their population in balance with the available natural resources.
Camera trap photography was one of many methods used during the Fraser Island dingo population study. Photos: Queensland Government
There is no evidence that the Fraser Island dingo population is dying out. It is difficult to simply count a population such as dingoes that are constantly moving around their territories in often-inaccessible terrain. A two-year population study has provided an insight into the population dynamics of Fraser Island's dingo population. These studies were conducted concurrently and suggest a current population of approximately 200 individuals roam across Fraser Island’s 166,000ha landmass.
The studies also indicate that dingo numbers vary depending on the seasons; that is, numbers increase after breeding and subsequently decline due to natural attrition. Pack sizes—generally about 12 animals per pack—vary across seasons and years according to the amount of vacant territories and supply of natural food sources.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) undertakes and approves a range of research studies on Fraser Island. The subject of many of these is the Fraser Island dingo.
Several studies have been undertaken to determine reliable estimates of Fraser Island’s dingo population, as well as other parameters—dingoes’ home ranges, habitats and food sources—affecting conservation management.
The methodology for the Fraser Island dingo population study was developed by the QPWS in partnership with dingo experts from the University of Queensland, Biosecurity Queensland and Griffith University.
The methodology employed a range of survey techniques, including identity tagging, intensive sighting surveys, radio and satellite tracking collars, and camera trap photography. All of these were conducted around or at the same time to provide more scientifically robust results.
Some interesting early results from the first stage of the 2010 population study—November 2009 to May 2010—indicated that a large number of juveniles (6 to 7 months old) and sub-adults (1.5 to 1.6 years old) had survived the last seasons. Many have now been tagged or photographed.
Results of the Analysis of the preliminary capture-mark-recapture experiment* (Appleby, R. and Jones, D. (2011)), which is part of the Fraser Island dingo population study stage 1, strongly suggests a current population of approximately 200 individual dingoes live on Fraser Island (a landmass of 166,000ha). This type of survey helped to build profiles of dingo movements and was only a small part of the entire study.
* See reference list on Fraser Island dingo publications page
Dingo-deterrent grids and fences have been installed in high-risk areas.
There have been very few reported instances of dingoes gaining entry to a township, since the fences and grids have been installed. Photos: Queensland Government
Approximately 99.8% of Fraser Island is available for wildlife, including dingoes, to roam freely. The dingo-deterrent fences do not cut dingoes off from their natural food sources.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manages Fraser Island for recreation and wildlife/habitat conservation.
Twenty-five per cent of Fraser Island’s 166,000ha landmass is generally accessible to people. Some camping areas, townships and resorts have dingo-deterrent fencing (with grids for car access) around them for the safety of people and dingoes.
The dingo-deterrent fences were installed for a number of reasons.
- A high proportion of threatening and/or high-risk dingo interactions were occurring in and around these areas.
- The high concentration of people in these areas attracted dingoes due to the easy availability of food.
- There had been a long history of people feeding dingoes in townships.
- Fed dingoes that became habituated started displaying aggressive behaviour, particularly towards children who were present in higher numbers within townships and family camping areas.
- Dingo-deterrent fencing elsewhere on Fraser Island had been very effective in negating negative dingo-people interactions at these locations.
There have been very few reported instances of dingoes getting inside a fenced area. Of the few reports, investigations showed that dingoes usually got inside the fence through a pedestrian gate carelessly propped open by people.
- Also see: Dingo management on Fraser Island
Although Fraser Island attracts around 400,000 visitors each year, the vast majority limit their visit to the most popular and iconic sites. These sites are very small areas compared to the large, undisturbed habitats available for the island’s wildlife to thrive. Dingoes can roam freely over all of Fraser Island except for a few small areas (equal to approximately 0.2% of the island) that have dingo-deterrent fences and grids for the safety of people and dingoes.
All commercial tour operators are bound by the strict operating conditions of their permits and/or agreements to ensure sustainable tourism and environmental protection. They require a permit or agreement to conduct their activities under legislation such as the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and/or the Recreation Area Management Act 2006.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service makes all attempts to reduce negative people-dingo interactions to protect people and conserve dingoes. If dingoes are left to be wild and are not fed or otherwise encouraged to come close, the chances of dingoes becoming dangerous and having to be euthanised are reduced.
Dingo education is about safety for people and dingoes. All visitors and residents on the island are targeted with ‘Be dingo-safe!’ information. This is provided on signs, in brochures, as web content on the pre-visit education on the Fraser Island web page, and in short video clips designed for the backpacker and the four-wheel-drive hire vehicle audience. Focused education campaigns, timed around the major events in dingo ecology—mating, pupping and weaning, and whelping—remind commercial tour operators, residents and backpacker companies to continue to promote dingo-safe behaviour to their clients, families and tenants. Once on the island, certain camping areas, depending on recent dingo activity, are visited by rangers to ensure people understand dingo safety guidelines.
Photo profile of Fraser Island dingo female purple/yellow/yellow
Wild dingoes are naturally lean and fit. They live a very active life, running or trotting up to 40km a day patrolling their territories and hunting. In fact, from data gathered since 2001, Fraser Island’s adult dingoes have an average weight of around 18kg; higher than mainland dingoes (Corbett, L 2009, Audit (2009) of Fraser Island dingo management strategy: Supplement 2: Assessment of public submissions regarding dingo management on Fraser Island*). Thin-looking dingoes may be juveniles that haven’t developed good condition or are subordinate animals or what are called ‘scapegoat’ animals in the pack. These lower ranking animals are often denied access to food, even at times when there is plenty of it about. It is a way that dominant animals keep their ‘rule’ over the pack.
It is common that juvenile dingoes—6 to 7 months old—lose some weight immediately after leaving their dens or packs. They must now learn to hunt for their own food. Juveniles are generally seen from late summer to early autumn. They often still have black hair on their backs and tend to look gangly until they mature and develop their muscles. Some juveniles do not succeed and will die. Those that do well, can, within a matter of months, gain weight and be in good condition to take their place in a pack.
A photograph taken in October 2008 showing a very thin dingo had been seen in newspaper and web articles. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service knew the dingo as one the rangers had tagged as purple/yellow/yellow. Rangers continued monitoring to build up a profile of this animal.
The profile of the dingo tagged as purple/yellow/yellow—re-tagged as pink/pink/pink—shows how she gained good condition from December 2008 to September 2009 and had pups in 2010 and again in 2012.
* See Fraser Island dingo publications list for this reference.
Also see: Dingo ecology
Dingoes eat a diverse range of food, including mammals and marine life washed up on shore. Photo: Queensland Government
Yes, because dingoes eat a diverse range of natural prey from insects to larger mammals. Dingoes catch fish, small reptiles, rodents and bandicoots. Packs will often roam along the beach looking for dead marine life or the occasional bird.
They tend to specialise on the most commonly available wildlife prey—on Fraser Island this appears to be bandicoots, echidnas and bushrats—yet will change their hunting strategies, including group size, to maximise hunting success for larger prey such as swamp wallabies and grey kangaroo.
Fraser Island dingoes also forage on native berries—particularly midyim and blue flax flower—which are abundant at most times throughout the year.
Many studies relating to dingo prey resources have been conducted on Fraser Island including various dingo scat (faeces or droppings) analysis and small mammal trapping programs.
The table below shows the variety of prey items. It is taken from a study (2002–2005) by University of Queensland PhD student Nick Baker. Similar studies conducted during the past decade have produced comparable results.
Analysis of 978 Fraser Island dingo scats (faeces) from an earlier study by Twyford (1995 – initiated by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) revealed that their favoured natural prey species are bandicoots, echidnas and native rodents. Bandicoots and bush rats are particularly abundant on Fraser Island. In addition, plant food, such as midyim and blue flax lily fruits, is abundant at most times of the year as are reptiles and invertebrates.
The broad range of dietary species available to dingoes island-wide is also evident in the preliminary findings of the department’s recent dingo scat analysis research. The most common prey species that have been found in the thousands of dingo scats analysed to date include bandicoots, fish, echidnas, swamp wallabies and rodent species including the pale field rat. Data collection and analysis for this program has not been completed however once the collection and analysis of scats has been finalised, and a review of raw data have been completed, this information will be made available.
Since the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service implemented a management strategy that removed easy access to human derived food—through engineering, education and enforcement programs—dingoes have returned to hunting. They have also tended to hunt more around dusk through to dawn, and while many still frequent the eastern side of the island, interaction with people has decreased and the risk posed to people has also reduced.
Dingoes have sharp teeth and strong jaws. Even a small bite (or nip) on a leg can leave a scar. Photos: Queensland Government
There is no need to feed dingoes. All available scientific data shows that the dingo population on Fraser Island is not starving. These dingoes are wild predatory animals that should not be confused with, or treated as, domestic pets.
Dingoes have bitten visitors, occasionally quite severely, and are capable of killing people. Feeding a dingo—even just once—has serious consequences for people and the dingo.
Dingoes that have lost their natural wariness of people (that is, become habituated) start to depend on hand-outs of food or scrounge for rubbish. Defending or fighting for their food can lead to aggression towards anyone. Children and small teenagers are particularly vulnerable. In trying to take food or gain dominance, dingoes will bite and maul—in one such incident a small child was tragically killed. These aggressive dingoes must be euthanised—sadly, as a result of the bad habits learnt from people.
The risk posed to people by dingoes has been reduced since the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service first implemented the Fraser Island dingo management strategy in November 2001. A fully independent scientific review of this strategy was completed in December 2012. The new Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy was released in July 2013.
Also see: Fraser Island dingo publications
No. Feeding stations for dingoes are seen as counterproductive; they can cause more harm than good to the dingo population on Fraser Island by severely disrupting the animals' ecology. Dingoes should be allowed to live in balance with available natural resources—a principle universally applied in wildlife management all over the world.
The Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy (FIDCRMS) emphasises:
Feeding dingoes, whether intentional (e.g. feeding stations) or inadvertent (e.g. through the improper disposal of rubbish) is problematic as it disturbs the natural ecological balance by increasing the breeding capacity of dingoes and inflating the population above the carrying capacity of Fraser Island, resulting in negative effects on greater numbers of dingoes and prey animal populations (Ecosure 2012).
Supplementary feeding may result in dingoes losing their natural fear of humans and their hunting skills, becoming dependent on scraps and hand-outs from humans. Feeding stations may also impact dingo pack territories, pack structure and natural population cycles.
Feeding stations also convey mixed messages and compromise key educational themes in regard to the negative effects of artificial food sources. This may lead to habituation and potentially negative human interactions which may ultimately compromise the dingoes’ long-term survival chances.
Also see: Fraser Island dingo publications
Just passing through. This dingo will keep moving through as all food and rubbish is secured at this house.
When following a food scent, dingoes will tear through tents and up-end iceboxes. Your best defence is common sense; keep all food attractants secure. Photos: Queensland Government
‘Human food’ means food that people eat, not the native or natural foods that dingoes hunt and forage. Dingoes have a very acute sense of smell. When following a food scent, dingoes will chew or tear anything. They will up-end and open unsecured (unlocked or unstrapped) iceboxes, tear through tents and snatch food from tables, sometimes even when people are nearby. They will steal food from within open vehicles or from boxes or bags stored on top of vehicles. Sometimes dingoes are attracted to items around the camp or your house that simply have the scent of food or are familiar food containers; e.g. yoghurt or milk containers. The 'human food' list below is not exhaustive, but includes the more common items that are known to attract dingoes. Your best defence is common sense—keep all food attractants secure.
'Human food' includes:
- meat, seafood (raw, cooked, tinned)
- bait, berley (fish or bait attractant)
- fish offal and fish cleaning waste (heads, bones, scales)
- dish cloths, tea towels or table cloths
- toothpaste, soaps and detergents
- lollies (sweets or candy), chewing gums, cakes, biscuits, eggs and bread
- containers of food or drink (full or empty)—milk, juice, cordials, alcohol or soft drinks
- fruit (fresh or dried), nuts and vegetables
- food-smeared cling film plastics, garbage bags, food or sweet wrappers (chocolate bars etc.)
- shoes, thongs, sandals
- perfumed items—soaps, detergents, shampoos, tanning lotions, sunscreen creams, insect sprays, hairstyling products
- scraps among scattered washing up water
- cooking pots, plastic containers (with or without food)
- cooking oil bottles, butter or margarine containers
- beer coolers
- bush toilet spots, menstrual pads or tampons, dirty nappies
- greasy barbecue plates, cooking implements, crockery, cutlery etc.
It is an offence to feed or make food available to a dingo, attract it using food or food waste or to disturb it anywhere on Fraser Island, whether on public or private land. Penalties apply.
Hazing is a successful, non-lethal aversive technique practised by conservation agencies around the world. It helps to discourage potentially dangerous animals (e.g. bears, wolves and baboons) from soliciting food from humans and becoming habituated in their behaviour by getting used to scrounging food from people or becoming aggressive to get at food.
Hazing techniques include the use of noise or non-lethal projectiles to discourage wildlife from behaviour that can put them or humans at risk. The method used depends upon the species involved and the situation on-ground.
Hazing discourages dangerous wildlife from interacting with people and it also encourages their reliance on natural food sources. Hazing of dingoes has not been approved for several years and is currently suspended pending scientific evidence demonstrating its efficiency in reducing habituation and considering its animal welfare and behaviour impacts.
If undertaken in the future, the Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy requires that hazing is not practiced as a management intervention unless under an authorised program for the primary purpose of evaluating appropriateness in minimising the need for euthanasia of animals that otherwise may become habituated.
The success of alternative engineering, education and management solutions has negated the need for hazing as a preferred management option.
Tags assist in identifying dingoes, and usually feature three colours. This dingo (green/white/green) is a male, because the tag is in the left ear. Photo: Queensland Government
Example of ear tag ID system
The tagging of dingoes on Fraser Island is conducted by trained authorised QPWS staff under an authorised Animal Ethics Permit.
Placing ear tags onto individual dingoes on Fraser Island started in November 2002. Tags are based on a standard ear-tag system as used for sheep in the livestock industry. These tags have also been used for native species such as nailtail wallabies and hairy-nosed wombats.
Standard tags are modified to feature a three-colour identification system. This three-colour system enables each animal to be allocated an individual colour code for ease of identification.
Ear tags were introduced as a management tool to help build profiles on individual dingoes. The tags clearly identify the dingo and whether it’s a male or female. Sightings and surveys of dingoes help to document their territories, membership in a pack and movements across the whole of Fraser Island. Each colour combination can be used twice as females are tagged in the right ear and males in the left ear.
The active dingo ear-tag register (which excludes known deceased animals) can be viewed here. It is updated on a quarterly basis. It is estimated that more than one third of the sighted dingo population is untagged. This suggests that there are approximately 200 dingoes currently on Fraser Island.
Although reflective in the headlights of a car or in the beam of a torch, the tags do not show up in moonlight or starlight. They don’t therefore give away the presence of a hunting dingo. The tags are small and do not interfere with a tagged dingo's hearing. The data that rangers and researchers have collected from remote cameras, stomach contents of deceased dingoes and scats (faecal droppings) provide evidence of the hunting prowess of tagged dingoes.
Sites on Fraser Island are inspected to detect signs of dingo activity and to investigate sightings of untagged dingoes. Priority is given to high-use visitor sites. Dingoes are trapped, mostly at night, with soft-catch traps. The jaws of these traps are off-set and padded with rubber so that trapped dingoes are not injured in the process. The trapped animals are sedated and tagged with an ear tagging tool. Dingoes may also be sedated with darts projected from a blow pipe or a gas-propelled rifle in a free ranging situation.
The soft-catch traps used to capture the dingoes are very safe and there is a very small likelihood of injury to the dingo. The traps used are softer-sprung than traps used by mainland trappers (2 springs instead of 4) and are only trapped for a limited amount of time compared to mainland traps. Rangers have captured hundreds of dingoes without any long-term trap injury. Dingoes naturally fight among themselves continuously and bites—whether intended to reinforce dominance or to kill an opponent—are sometimes delivered to a limb. The sighting of a limping dingo is usually a result of fighting and not trapping.
Natural pack behaviour includes attempts for dominance within the pack. Do not mistake this behaviour as 'play'- it is not a game. Photo: Queensland Government
Dingoes are not tame or trained, they are wild and unpredictable. They live in packs and the dominant animals (alphas) get first access to food and are normally the only successful breeding pair, while the subordinate animals must be submissive—relinquishing access rights to food and breeding. Of course, fights are a part of living in a pack, where every dingo will try to gain dominance or access to food.
When people and dingoes have close encounters, dingoes react using 'pack rules'. Most visitors expect dingoes to behave like their domesticated pet dogs—jumping and playing around. But this behaviour is not seen by dingoes as a game. Running or jumping or clapping hands can stimulate dingoes into a contest for dominance with people. They are working on 'pack rules' that people don’t understand and who soon may find themselves nipped or bitten. Download and print off the Be dingo-safe! flyer to take onto the island with you.
Jumps and lunges are tests of dominance; get involved and you could be mauled or killed.
Dingoes can attack from behind when people are unaware. Photos: Queensland Government
There have been some cases, particularly near high-use visitor areas, where dingoes have lost their fear and natural shyness towards people and have developed aggressive tendencies and/or destructive behaviour.
Dingoes may directly approach a person, commonly a solitary child or woman, snarling, lunging and circling. On many occasions reports regarding people-dingo interaction suggest the dingo appears to be 'prancing' around the person in a way that looks like playfulness. This behaviour can precede a physical attack particularly when people react inappropriately; that is, not responding according to ‘pack rules’. Children who get involved in dominance testing by a dingo can get mauled or killed. Adults should always stay within arm’s reach to their children—even small teenagers are at risk.
Dingoes will attack unsuspecting people from behind when they are concentrating on something else. Bites are usually to the legs.
Signs to look out for
An aggressive dingo, ready to attack, may often lower its head, curl up its tail and fold back its ears.
See how to be dingo-safe on Fraser Island.
Interfering with dingoes causes their natural behaviour to change-they are no longer wary of humans and can become aggressive quickly.
Sadly, dingoes that become dangerous are euthanised as a result of the habits learnt from people.
Photograph them from afar. Stay in the car. Photos: Queensland Government
The sequence of events leading to an attack by a dingo can be summarised as:
Attraction > Habituation > Interaction > Aggression
Attraction happens when people leave food out. Dingoes are attracted to food smells, drinks, rubbish and odd things like sweets, cooking oil, tea towels, dish cloths and toiletries.
Habituation means that a dingo has lost its natural fear of humans, ignores threats and comes close to people. Habituated dingoes expect food from everyone. Pups of habituated dingoes may not be taught to hunt properly.
Negative interaction comes about, when people try to encourage dingoes to come closer or feed them and the dingoes try to dominate or steal food by aggression.
Aggression occurs when people get involved with dingoes that are feeding, roaming or being aggressive. Dingoes—individuals or as a small pack—display aggression when they actively stalk or circle people, lunge at them, nip or bite savagely. Dingoes are capable of killing people.
Some dingoes are dangerous because people have fed and encouraged them to get a good photograph or to try to interact with them. When dingoes are fed or scavenge rubbish, they often lose their hunting skills and start to depend on scraps and hand-outs. They soon expect food from everybody and become habituated; that is, they lose their natural fear of humans and ignore threats which usually would chase them off. Habituated dingoes increasingly visit camps, picnic areas, resorts and residences; follow people in the hope for a hand-out; and sometimes tear open tents looking for easy food.
However, positive and neutral interactions happen most times. A positive interaction for people and dingoes is when dingoes shy away from people, cars and buses.
In neutral interactions dingoes may wander around people, but keep their distance and walk away, because people have not enticed them to come close with offers of food or playful encouragement.
Interfering with natural behaviour
Pups from habituated dingoes are often not taught to hunt effectively; instead they grow up scavenging from these areas. They are no longer wary of people and also become aggressive—on one occasion, a dingo tragically killed a nine year old child.
In the early stages of habituation, dingoes just become annoying. They hang around camps, picnic areas or people fishing on the beach. They will snatch a bit of fish or food and run away, only to return again for another try. These dingoes can become aggressive very quickly and should be reported to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers as soon as possible, so their behaviour can be monitored and any possible associated risks can be reduced or avoided through management options such as temporarily closing camping areas or increasing visitor education in that area.
Dingoes learn quickly and bad habits are hard to break. One episode of feeding or successful scavenging may quickly lead to another episode of searching for ‘easy food’. With each successful find, close to camps, fishing groups or houses, dingoes become less wary of humans and soon will try to snatch food right off a table or from an unsecured vehicle. They can become aggressive if people try to stop them. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are small and appear submissive to the dingo.
Dingoes have bitten visitors, occasionally quite severely, and are capable of killing people. These dingoes are euthanised—sadly, as a result of habits learnt from people.
- Also see: Dingo management on Fraser Island
Relocating Fraser Island dingoes from their home territories is not an option. Their best protection is for humans not to interfere with their natural behaviour, so they do not become habituated and dangerous in the first place. Photo: Qld Govt
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has never relocated Fraser Island dingoes to the 'wild' on the mainland and does not currently support any proposal to relocate Fraser Island dingoes to 'wild' or 'captive' situations on the mainland.
There are a range of considerations as follows:
- The key principle for management of national parks is contained in section 17 of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 which states:
A national park is to be managed to, provide to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area’s natural condition and the protection of the area’s cultural resources and values.The dingo is classed as native wildlife under this legislation and is protected on national parks in Queensland.
- The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service observes the objectives of the Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy (FIDCRMS) to ensure conservation and preservation of a sustainable wild dingo population on Fraser Island. A key vision of the strategy is that people have enjoyable opportunities to see wild dingoes in their natural environment, and can understand, appreciate and respect dingoes, and act appropriately to reduce negative impacts on human safety and dingo welfare.
- The Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) does not support the relocation of dingoes to the wild or into captivity. Interest in taking wild dingo pups from Fraser Island has been expressed by several dingo breeding and conservation organisations and individuals. However, Dr Laurie Corbett (1998a) warns that relocation to captive dingo centres on the mainland should not be considered until valid genetic assessment techniques (i.e. DNA tests) are available to ascertain the purity of live dingoes. While current research has established good molecular techniques, no suitable pre-European reference material has yet been analysed so that all preliminary DNA identifications made to date have been equivocal. Wildlife parks and zoos have the ability to obtain captive bred dingo pups from various establishments in Australia and overseas.
- Moreover, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service considers it to be highly unlikely for a Fraser Island dingo to survive if it has been relocated off-island and in the wild. Competition and defence of territory by resident dingoes will invariably result in the relocated dingo being seen as an intruder and being violently killed.
- The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s key responsibility is the conservation and protection of wildlife. Trade in commercially attractive animals such as dingoes is not a management objective.
- It is unlikely that the type and number of Fraser Island dingoes identified for euthanasia would represent ideal foundation stock for a captive breeding experiment. In 1994, three Fraser Island dingoes were relocated into trial captivity at David Fleay Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast. This trial was considered a failure, resulting in the two surviving dingoes being euthanased after a young girl was attacked and bitten through double-mesh fencing. This incident was in addition to the problems experienced by keepers trying to manage and care for difficult, dangerous and unhappy dingoes.
- A high risk dingo has learnt, for one reason or another, that being aggressive or threatening towards people ensures its dominance or access to human food. This habit cannot be changed and the dingo will remain a high risk no matter where it is relocated to.
- Also see:
- Dingo management on Fraser Island
- Fraser Island dingo publications
Many dingoes behave naturally and are wary of people, so will watch you from a distance. Often they sit still and keep watch from high in the dunes and in the forest. Although dingoes are fairly common and widespread on Fraser Island, occupying all habitats, sightings may be rare at certain times of the year. They mainly hunt around dawn and dusk and into the night. They are often seen roaming along the eastern beach, and walkers should be alert to this and always walk in small groups, never alone. Sometimes packs or individual dingoes move through areas where visitors are staying. People should never encourage them to come closer. Observe dingoes from a safe distance and always stay very close to your children. If you look for signs you will see their presence in paw print tracks in the sand, chewed items they’ve been playing with, scats and possibly unfinished food such as a marine turtle carcass they have accessed.
The number one priority in relation to Fraser Island dingo management is public and dingo safety. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers manage human-dingo interactions according to the comprehensive Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy (FIDCRMS)*.
An ongoing program of monitoring and review is conducted to assess risk levels (i.e. the risk posed by dingoes to people) at key visitor nodes across the island and determine the effectiveness of dingo management strategies in maintaining these levels at an acceptable (low) level. Risk is estimated from data on the number of people using sites at different times of the day, the number of dingoes using those sites and the number of interactions that have been recorded at the sites. As part of this program, dingoes are trapped and tagged to allow individual dingoes to be easily identified by rangers and the public. A profile is kept of each tagged dingo to allow the behaviour of individual animals to be monitored over time.
Scientific research and monitoring has also been an important element of the dingo management strategy. Studies in determining dingo behaviour, dietary habits and the size and natural sustainability of the dingo and prey populations have been undertaken and continue. In Dr Laurie Corbett’s audit (2009) Supplement 2*, he states that 'Preliminary results indicate that dingoes occur throughout the island’s forests and that most dingoes living in forests predominantly feed on native prey and are independent of human-derived foods'.
* These references are available for viewing from the Fraser Island dingo publications list
Although ensuring the conservation of the dingo population is important, the safety of visitors, workers and residents on the island is paramount.
Dingoes are naturally curious and always looking for an 'easy feed'. Accidentally feeding dingoes, through carelessness with food, or deliberately feeding them is an unfortunate reality on Fraser Island—a reality that can have serious ramifications for both the dingoes and people on the island. Note: It is an offence to feed dingoes—penalties apply.
Finding human food, even once, rewards the dingoes for their search and stimulates them to return and repeat the behaviour. This is reinforced after each successful event, and they quickly become accustomed to people and lose their natural fear of humans. Over time, they take more and more chances to find human food rewards and learn to be aggressive and dominant over humans. This behaviour escalates to the point where the dingoes become dangerous to people. These dingoes then often pay the price with their lives and are euthanised—sadly, as a result of the habits that humans have taught them.
Tags allow rangers to easily identify and profile dingo behaviour, including positive and negative interactions. Photo: Queensland Government
Rangers are constantly monitoring dingoes’ behaviour and through the ear tag identification system can easily profile a dingo. Encounters (interactions or sightings) that are reported to rangers are added to the dingo’s profile. These reports are recorded as code A,B,C,D or E, with:
- A being a sighting of a dingo that is wary of and avoids people (runs away)
- B being an interaction between a habituated dingo and people
- C being nuisance or problem dingo behaviour
- D being threatening dingo behaviour
- E being high-risk behaviour.
Any negative interactions should be reported, but particularly if the dingo (or dingoes) has stolen food, growled or lunged at a person, or nipped or bitten someone.
Rangers also get, and welcome, reports or photos, film footage and so on, of dingoes doing the right thing—standing well back from a group of people, running away from vehicles, or walking well around a camp.
Dingoes assessed over time as being high-risk to people may be euthanised. These animals cannot ‘unlearn’ this behaviour and can quickly become unpredictable and so dangerous that they will, in certain circumstances, seriously maul or kill someone.
People living on or visiting the island can help reduce the number of negative interactions with dingoes, by not feeding or encouraging them and by keeping all food and rubbish secured.
- Corbett, L., 1995, The Dingo in Australia and Asia, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney (reprinted as: Corbett,L., 2001, The Dingo in Australia and Asia, JB Books, Adelaide)
- Corbett, L., 1998a, Management of Dingoes on Fraser Island, ERA Environmental Services Pty. Ltd. (unpublished consultant’s report prepared for the Department of Environment and Heritage)
- Twyford, K., 1995, Investigations into the dietary ecology of dingoes on Fraser Island: Third interim report, (internal unpublished report)