Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Is enemy's enemy always a friend? Vague implications of wild dog control on a native marsupial herbivore. (#25)

Michal Smielak 1 , Guy Ballard 1 2 , Gerhard Koertner 1 , Karl Vernes 1 , Nick Reid 1 , Peter J.S. Fleming 1 3
  1. University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
  2. Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Armidale, NSW, Australia
  3. Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, Orange, NSW, Australia

At least 27 mammals have gone extinct in Australia since European settlement, which has been attributed to the human introduction of two invasive carnivores; red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cat (Felix catus). The dingo (Canis dingo) is thought to control invasive mesopredator populations and thus benefit native species. The roles played by the dingo in the Australian ecosystem are still unclear with the majority of the continent controlling dingoes and their hybrids on a landscape scale as agricultural pests. Using the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) as a model species, we studied six sites in the New England Tablelands, northern New South Wales, where different wild dog control regimes are implemented. While predominantly arboreal, possums use the ground to move and forage which makes them vulnerable to predation by dogs, foxes and cats. Using remote cameras, GPS collars and giving-up density experiments, we investigated spatio-temporal patterns of activity and non-lethal effects of predation by both dingoes and invasive mesopredators. We also compared these patterns with the introduced European hare (Lepus europaeus), a strictly terrestrial herbivore of comparable size. Our preliminary results suggest that environmental and climatic factors as well as habitat structure may play a major role in shaping the predator-prey relationship. That implies that the conservation outcomes of wild dog control will depend on more complex mechanisms than simply regulating mesopredator populations and thus require thorough consideration in future management and conservation efforts.