Range and abundance
The Dingo was transported to Australia, apparently by Asian seafarers, around 3500 – 4000 years ago. It was integrated into Aboriginal culture and eventually dispersed across all of mainland Australia. Since European settlement the Dingo’s range has declined due to persecution by humans and habitat loss. It has been virtually eliminated from south-eastern Australia, a situation maintained by the construction of a 5000 km barrier fence. Dingoes maintain relatively large home ranges (2000 – 10000 ha), densities varying with prey abundance.
Dingoes, like domestic dogs, are recent descendants of the Wolf. An adult Dingo is 81 – 111 cm in length and weigh 13 – 15 kg. Coat colour can vary from the ginger to sandy, black and tan, or white. They often have white markings on the feet, tail tip and chest. Their ears stand upright and the adults have a bushy tail.
In remote areas, Dingoes form stable packs of 3 – 12 individuals that collectively occupy a territory. The territory size of a pack varies with habitat and the availability of prey. Most Dingoes remain close to their area of birth, but young males can disperse tens and even hundreds of kilometres. The diet of Dingoes varies according to prey abundance and availability; prey ranges in size from mice to buffalo. Kangaroos are often an important prey item. Dingoes prey heavily on rabbits where they are present and may also help suppress numbers of feral pigs. There is increasing evidence that Dingoes can suppress the abundance and / or activity of feral cats, hence indirectly benefiting native animals threatened by cat predation.
The greatest threat to the Dingo is persecution by humans. Both governments and landholders have attempted eradication or control programs involving hunting, poisoning and fencing. Dingoes are also threatened by habitat loss. Hybridisation with domestic dogs threatens the integrity of the Dingo as a distinct genetic entity.