Fire and dingoes can control foxes in Victoria’s Big Desert

Thursday 8 Feb 2018

Foxes prowling the night in Victoria’s semi-arid Big Desert region to prey on small native animals may be watching their backs, according to research findings by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) ecologist.

Associate Professor Dale Nimmo, a researcher with the University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society, has investigated how fire management can help control feral pests such as foxes in an arid environment.

Professor Nimmo and colleagues from Deakin University showed that foxes avoid areas where dingoes are common, something that has also been found in arid and temperate forest ecosystems across Australia.

Here is a video of some native and exotic animals, including dingoes and foxes, ‘caught’ on camera traps.

Listen to Associate Professor Nimmo


Professor Nimmo said: “We showed that carefully managed fires can help increase the prevalence of dingoes, and they in turn suppress foxes.

“Dingoes were drawn to recently burned areas, probably to hunt kangaroo, and the consequence of this was that foxes avoided recently burned areas,” Professor Nimmo said.

“This suggests dingoes might create refuge from red foxes for native species after wildfire.”

“This has important implications for our management of these areas for conserving Australia’s biodiversity.”

The project:

- Location: Project centred on 21 landscapes in the Big Desert region of north-western Victoria.

- The study: The first history of each landscape was quantified and set up with camera traps to monitor local animal populations.

- Project team: Associate Professor Dale Nimmo (CSU) and colleagues from Deakin University (Dr Euan Ritchie and Mr William Geary).

Animals studied:
- The apex predator (the dingo, Canis dingo), top of the food chain, pictured left;
- a smaller predator, the red fox (Vuples vuples);
- two small, potential prey species, the Mitchells hopping mouse (Notomys mitchelli) and the silky mouse (Pseudomys apodemoides).

- Foxes were less common in areas where dingoes were more common.
- Dingoes were more common in areas that had recently experienced wildfire, meaning that foxes avoided those areas.


Media contact: Wes Ward, 0417 125 795

Media Note:

Associate Professor Dale Nimmo is with the CSU School of Environmental Sciences in Albury-Wodonga, and is a member of the University's Institute of Land Water and Society. Contact CSU Media to arrange an interviews and pictures.

Note short, animated gif files are also available from CSU Media of foxes, dingoes and feral cats caught in camera traps.

This study is reported in the paper:
Geary WL, Ritchie EG, Lawton JA, Healey TR and Nimmo DG. (2018) Incorporating disturbance into trophic ecology: fire history shapes mesopredator suppression by an apex predator. Journal of Applied Ecology. 1-29. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13125