Date of this Version
Australia has two introduced canid species — European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and wild dogs (which include dingoes, Canis lupus dingo, feral domestic dogs C. l. familiaris and their hybrids). Foxes were introduced into mainland Australia in the 1860s and quickly spread (Rolls, 1984; Jarman 1986). This dispersal and establishment is believed linked with the introduction and spread of European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cunniculus) (Saunders et al., 1995). Except in Tasmania, where previous introductions appear to have been unsuccessful, and in northern Australia, where the climate is unsuitable and rabbits are essentially absent, foxes have become established throughout in virtually all habitats including urban and residential environments (Saunders et al., 1995). Within decades of their introduction, legislation was enacted proclaiming them as pests to agriculture, and more recently, as a key threatening process to endangered small mammals (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2001). This status has been enshrined in subsequent legislation and strengthened by virtue of foxes being an introduced pest species rather than a native animal. Dingoes are thought to have arrived in Australia from Southeast Asia about 5000 years before present (Corbett, 1995a). A number of reports have reviewed the origins, ecological significance of dingos, and their morphological and genetic relationship to domestic dogs. Interested readers are referred to Newsome et al. (1980) as one example. Like foxes they are also found in virtually every habitat across the Australian continent and are absent from Tasmania (Fleming et al., 2001). However, because of their longer association with Australia, they are often regarded as a “native” species (Davis, 2001). Wild domestic dogs have been present since the first European settlement in 1788 (Fleming et al., 2001) and hybridization with dingoes has been occurring ever since (Corbett, 1995a, 2001). Despite the native status of dingoes, all wild dogs and foxes are regarded and managed as pests on agricultural lands, i.e. outside of conservation areas. Pure dingoes alone are afforded legislative protection in areas set aside for conservation (Fleming et al., 2001; Davis and Leys, 2001) yet feral dogs and hybrids effectively enjoy the same legislative protection in conservation areas as dingoes, because they cannot be managed separately.