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Michael Wysong

Nowhere is the competing conflict between nature and culture more apparent within a single wildlife species in Australia than with the dingo; a species that is at once both classified as a pest and protected species, and perceived as feral or native. The dingo has long been considered a threat to the pastoral industry and government sponsored dingo control in the form of bounties, barrier fences, poisoning, trapping, and shooting has persisted for many decades. However, recently a growing interest in protecting and conserving the species has emerged centered around the use of the dingo to regulate tropic cascades and protect native prey species from predation by feral cats and foxes.

While many pastoralists view the dingo as an unwanted pest simply to be removed from the environment, other sections of society view them as wildlife icons to be conserved and protected. Hence individuals or agencies may differ in their management strategies of dingoes resulting in an uncoordinated or conflicted management strategy over the larger landscape scale. However, an uncoordinated effort to manage dingoes across the greater landscape of arid Western Australia may result in a piecemeal strategy that is either inefficient or ineffective. Likewise, without coordinated management, one sector of society may end up unfairly bearing the costs of a management strategy that does not benefit or may in fact be detrimental to their objectives.

My research will develop and test methods to reliably census feral cat and wild dog populations and to evaluate the influence of predator control on these species. Specifically, I will seek to understand the nature of the relationship between feral cats and wild dogs and the mechanisms involved. Because dingoes occur at a landscape scale over large areas and across multiple land uses with different management goals, the final aspect of my project will explore a decision framework for the management of dingoes in the Gascoyne-Murchison region based on the dual goals of pastoralism and biodiversity conservation.

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