Management of pest animals in the rapidly-expanding peri-urban region of eastern Australia requires tools and strategies markedly different to the rural landscape. The two priority pests for peri-urban councils are wild dogs and deer. Wild dogs are widespread through this region, but are becoming increasingly visible with raised public concern. Their impacts range from livestock and pet injury and loss, human harassment and even injury, being vectors of livestock and zoonotic disease, to predation on threatened wildlife. Managers have had some initial successes in controlling wild dogs, but these should be refined, extended and tailored to other areas.
In contrast, for deer, a more fragmented distribution suggests management of source populations may be more fruitful. Deer have modest rates of increase relative to canids, so suppression of small populations is theoretically feasible. The difficulty has been removing sufficient animals. Control tools are limited to trapping, shooting and fencing, but the efficacy of these methods in peri-urban settings is unknown. Methods for monitoring peri-urban deer have been developed overseas, but need to be evaluated in eastern Australia in order to guide and assess management actions.
Peri-urban local governments have identified the need for better tools and strategies for control of wild dogs (and foxes) and deer.
Behavioural science and engagement approaches are required to successfully identify, implement and monitor the success of strategies to manage pest animals in the peri-urban landscape. Planning workshops will be conducted to gauge community attitudes to wild dogs and deer issues, and guide the type, level and involvement in interventions required to reach ‘acceptable levels of pest impact’. Findings from these planning workshops will guide the interventions conducted. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting of such plans will be completed during the intervention phase to determine the success of the management intervention. This would mesh with more traditional assessments of control strategies and will focus on the monitoring of impacts (e.g. incident records) and activity (e.g. sightings, activity) as metrics of success.
This project aims to provide, through collaborations and community-led actions, pest managers with alternative strategies for managing wild dogs and deer in peri-urban areas of eastern Australia. This will involve:
February 2020 update:
Data assessed from toxic Canid Pest Ejectors (CPEs) deployed in peri-urban areas of south-eastern Queensland has demonstrated the interactions and activations by wild dogs, foxes and non-target species. The activation rate of CPEs is lower in dogs (3%) than for foxes (12%). Although CPEs are target specific, non-target species activations reduce the efficiency of the technique. Visitation and capture rates of trapping are being assessed for comparison to CPEs to determine optimal recommendations for effective and cost-effective removal of wild dogs. Data on sightings or impacts reported to the local authority are also being captured as an outcome of control. The data collected will help provide recommendations for the effective and safe use of CPE deployment and trapping for managing peri-urban wild dogs.
A Community Led Plan for invasive animal management has progressed with a group of peri-urban residents. Two workshops were conducted allowing participants to be briefed about the research project and the findings to date and discuss opportunities for engagement and collaboration between the Working Group and Biosecurity Queensland/CISS.
Wild deer densities were monitored by faecal pellet count (an index of deer abundance) in response to ground shooting operations in two peri-urban areas in Queensland and New South Wales to identify the best management strategies.
Preliminary analysis of faecal pellet count monitoring data indicate a decrease in faecal pellets on the more urban transects (around Wollongong) since 2018, and a slight increase in faecal pellets on the more rural transects since 2018.
Follow-up monitoring is planned, and a more sophisticated analysis of this time series will be conducted that incorporates management effort and biophysical variables. Based on the known impact of deer (resident complaints, road and rail collisions) and the management effort (ground shooting by contractors), up to 30 additional transects have been identified for the 2020 deer faecal pellet count.
Initial analysis of deer faecal pellet density data from transects in Brisbane suggest that deer numbers have slightly increased from 2018 to 2019. Analysis is underway of camera grid surveys to determine deer abundance. This data will enable local authorities to assess efficacy of control.
August 2019 update:
Interviews were conducted with peri-urban residents in the Toowoomba area who have an interest in wild dog control. A working group has been established to progress a community-led plan for invasive animal management.
Sightings and impacts of wild dogs reported to local authorities are being recorded to help refine guidelines for the safe use and effectiveness of long-term canid pest ejectors (CPEs) deployment in peri-urban areas. An average of 22% of toxic CPEs were activated over three-week periods by wild dogs and foxes at five sites in QLD.
GPS-collared wild dog movement was overlaid with modelled locations of control tools (CPEs, traps) placed at different distance intervals. Strategic placement of control tools at high impact locations (trail intersections) efficiently target wild dogs during long-term deployments. Alternatively, CPE placement at the highest permitted density would reduce the time until first encounter and removal of wild dogs.
Preliminary analysis of historical transect sites (NSW) indicate a population decrease in urban transects and an increase in rural transects since 2018. These transects will be monitored in 2020, and an improved analysis incorporating the historical data, management effort and biophysical values will be conducted.
Transect sites have also been established around Brisbane in 2018, with follow-up monitoring scheduled for 2020. Faecal pellet density and camera grids will help to determine deer abundance and determine efficacy of control by local authorities.
February 2019 update:
A number of field sites have been established and monitoring of deer and wild dog abundance or other activity on these sites is ongoing.
These sites will be used to assess effectiveness of control of wild dogs and deer over time.
Camera monitoring of wild dog presence/activity was undertaken over a 2-month period at five sites within the Southern Queensland areas prior to deployment of canid pest ejectors (CPEs). Sites were chosen through consultation with project collaborators with criteria including historical and ongoing issues with wild dogs and suitability for longer-term CPE deployment.
Community engagement with peri-urban residents and groups across the field sites is underway to ensure they are kept informed and aware of the management taking place and why.
The team has begun to assess the animal welfare outcomes of ground shooting of rusa deer in peri-urban Wollongong. At the time of writing, we have assessed outcomes for 35 deer. They will continue to assess animal welfare outcomes until we have a sample size of at least 100 deer.