Roaming of dogs in remote Indigenous communities in northern Australia and potential interaction between community and wild dogs

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the roaming of Indigenous community dogs and potential interaction with wild dogs and dingoes.

Design

Cross-sectional survey and longitudinal follow-up study.

Methods

Six remote Indigenous communities in Cape York Peninsula and Arnhem Land in northern Australia were selected. Hair samples were collected from community dogs and microsatellite DNA analyses were used to determine hybrid (>10% dingo DNA) status. Dogs were fitted with GPS collars and home range (ha) was estimated during monitoring periods of up to 3 days.

Results

In Cape York Peninsula, 6% of the 35 dogs sampled were dingo hybrids, whereas in Arnhem Land 41% of the 29 dogs sampled were hybrids. The median extended home range was estimated to be 4.54 ha (interquartile range, 3.40 − 7.71). Seven community dogs were identified with an estimated home range > 20 ha and home ranges included the bushland surrounding communities. No significant difference in home ranges was detected between hybrid and non-hybrid dogs.

Conclusions

Study results provide some evidence (dingo hybridisation, bushland forays) of the potential interaction between domestic and wild dogs in northern Australia. The nature of this interaction needs further investigation to determine its role in disease transmission; for example, in the case of a rabies incursion in this region.

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