Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Stable dingo population structure and purity over 11 years of lethal management

Citation

Stephens, Danielle; Kennedy, Malcolm; Kreplins, Tracey (2022), Stable dingo population structure and purity over 11 years of lethal management, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2547d7wsx

Abstract

Interactions between predators and humans are a key driver of human-wildlife conflicts and can underpin the management of predator populations. Management of the impacts of dingoes (Canis familiaris) on livestock and native species is a prime example of a persistent and contentious predator management issue with potential impacts on the integrity of dingo populations. To manage the potential impacts of dingoes and their control, it is imperative to understand the effects of control approaches on their populations in the short and long term. Hybridisation of dingoes with domestic dogs (C. familiaris) threatens the genetic integrity of pure dingoes. It has been hypothesised that lethal control of dingoes can facilitate hybridisation by disrupting pack social structures leading to increased dingo-domestic dog interactions.

Here we use dingo genetic samples from three distinct sampling periods: 2009, 2014, and 2020, within the Murchison Regional Vermin Cell (MRVC) area in Western Australia (WA). At the time of the study, the MRVC was a large, partially-fenced area in which dingo control has been performed for many decades. We assess dingo purity, population clustering, gene flow, and individual relatedness in the context of ongoing control.

We identified three genetically distinct populations in the study area, consistent with previous genetic studies of WA, but did not find any evidence of change in dingo purity or population characteristics, however barrier fencing may be influencing recent gene flow.

Policy implications: The metapopulation of dingoes in the southern rangelands of WA appears to be stable over the 11 years assessed here and there is no evidence that lethal control to reduce losses to livestock production and for conservation of native wildlife is putting dingo purity at risk. Fencing appears to be an effective management tool as there is some evidence it is separating dingo populations in areas where the fences are well maintained.

Methods

Specimens were collected in the Murchison region of the southern rangelands of Western Australia from three time periods: 2009, 2014, and 2020. 1,207 dingo tissue specimens were selected for analysis. The 2009 specimens were selected from the broader sampling of Stephens et al. (2015) to cover the area of interest. The 2014 specimens were taken from a State Government bounty trial conducted that year, and the 2020 specimens were taken from ongoing control work. DNA extraction, amplification, and dingo ancestry testing were performed using the method described in Stephens et al. (2011), with 23 microsatellite loci used for dingo ancestry testing in Structure and 34 loci used for all other analyses.

Stephens, D. (2011) The molecular ecology of Australian wild dogs: hybridisation, gene flow and genetic structure at multiple geographic scales. The University of Western Australia, Ph.D. Thesis.

Stephens, D., Wilton, A.N., Fleming, P.J.S. & Berry, O. (2015) Death by sex in an Australian icon: a continent-wide survey reveals extensive hybridization between dingoes and domestic dogs. Molecular Ecology, 24, 5643-5656. 10.1111/mec.13416

Funding

Government of Western Australia, Award: Western Australia Wild Dog Action Plan 2016-2021 and 2021-2025