Biosecurity Research Articles

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

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Wildlife Research




baiting, cell fencing, dingo, gene flow, hybridisation, lethal control, rangelands, wild dog


Agriculture | Biosecurity | Other Animal Sciences


Context: Interaction between predators and humans is a key driver of human–wildlife conflicts and can underpin management of predator populations. Management of the impacts of dingoes 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 also threatens the genetic integrity of pure dingoes. It has been hypothesised that lethal control of dingoes can facilitate hybridisation through disrupting pack social structures leading to increased dingo–domestic dog interactions.

Aims: We aimed to to investigate how dingo population structure and genetic purity have changed, assessing dingo purity, individual relatedness, population clustering and gene flow, particularly across land use types and barrier fences, in the context of ongoing lethal control within the Murchison Regional Vermin Cell area in Western Australia (WA).

Methods: We tested dingo genetic samples from three distinct sampling periods (2009, 2014 and 2020) for changes in population summary statistics and dingo ancestry. Barriers and corridors to gene flow were also examined.

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

Conclusions: The metapopulation of dingoes in the southern rangelands of WA appears to be stable over the 11 years assessed.

Implications: Because we were unable to demonstrate that lethal control has accelerated hybridisation between dingoes and domestic dogs in the study area over the last 11 years, we have no evidence that lethal control to reduce losses to livestock production and for conservation of native wildlife in the southern rangelands of WA is putting dingo purity at risk. Fencing appears to be an effective management tool because there is some evidence it is congruent with reduced gene flow in areas where the fences are well maintained.