Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Is water the key? Dingo management, intraguild interactions and predator distribution around water points in arid Australia

Renee L. Brawata A C and Teresa Neeman B

A Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Australian National University Statistical Consultancy Unit, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: renee.brawata@anu.edu.au

Wildlife Research 38(5) 426-436 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10169
Submitted: 20 September 2010  Accepted: 22 July 2011   Published: 12 October 2011

Abstract

Context: Predators are major beneficiaries of artificial water points in arid environments, yet little is known of the effects of water on the distribution of many sympatric species. Intraguild interactions around water points in arid Australia may play a significant role in structuring mammalian predator assemblages and influence spatial predation on some native prey species.

Aims: We examined how management of an apex predator, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo), influenced the distribution of two introduced mesopredators, foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cats (Felis catus), around water points in arid Australia.

Methods: The spatial activity of dingoes, foxes and feral cats was assessed at five study sites with varying dingo management regimes. Sampling of predator activity was monitored using track counts at measured proximity to water points.

Key results: At sites where dingoes were uncontrolled, foxes were less likely to be found within 5 km of water points; conversely, where dingoes were controlled using exclusion fencing, fox activity was highest near water. Where dingo activity was reduced using 1080 baiting, feral cats were found closer to water.

Conclusions: These patterns suggest that the presence of dingoes instigates avoidance behaviour by foxes and feral cats, and through doing so may limit the use of artificial waters by these mesopredators. Through limiting access to such an essential resource in arid environments, dingoes may reduce mesopredator populations and minimise their impact on native prey.

Implications: For the conservation of native biodiversity, it may prove beneficial to maintain intact dingo populations due to their suppressive effect on mesopredators.

Additional keywords: artificial water, avoidance behaviour, dingo, mesopredator.


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