Wild dogs are fairly large predators, but are much smaller than able-bodied adults and therefore not generally much of a threat to them. However, they can be a serious threat to incapacitated, isolated, outnumbered, or very small humans, especially infants and young children.
Humans and dingoes generally tend to avoid each other. In some situations, however, such as on Fraser Island and some locations in the Northern Territory, close interaction between dingoes and humans, especially feeding dingoes, has led to dangerous habituation and attacks.
Dingo attacks on livestock, however, are fairly common occurrences and a serious concern for the Australian livestock industry.
The likelihood of wild dog attacks on humans depends to a large degree on how humans behave toward them. The more frequently these dogs are fed or scavenge human leftovers, the more likely it is that they lose all caution and sometimes react aggressively towards humans when they perceive themselves to be in conflict with the human over food.
During a study on Fraser Island dingoes, the researchers reasoned that the presence of humans influences the activity of dingoes. The tourism industry on the island encouraged people to approach dingoes without caution, and such encounters were practically expected by the tourists. People lost their caution when dealing with dingoes more and more frequently, and the number of reported interactions increased. The way the dingoes reacted towards humans was dependent on the way humans behaved toward them. Dingoes tended to show aggressive behaviour when humans fled, and tended to be intimidated when humans consciously or aggressively moved towards them. Humans making submissive postures seemed to cause a neutral or submissive reaction of the dingoes. That dingoes showed aggressive behaviour towards humans seemed to be similarly likely during different times of the year. However, adult dingoes might be more dangerous during the breeding season, and female dingoes especially when they raise their pups.
Even when habituation to humans seems to be the cause for attacks, it is not clear what the ultimate cause for attacks and overall threat towards humans is. It is possible that some attacks result from the "play" of young pups, especially with children. Attacks can also be caused by false reactions of humans to aggressive and dominance behaviour of dingoes. It is assumed that dingoes might have started to regard "human" food sources (garbage cans, leftovers, handouts, etc.) as part of their territory and that attacks on humans can therefore occur because the dingoes see humans as competitors and want to protect their food sources. That some dingoes might regard humans as prey was also deemed possible because humans, especially children, could be theoretically overpowered.
In December 1933, when three girls went missing near Mount Coot-tha, the possibility of their having been attacked by dingoes was considered. Local livestock men who live and work among dingoes all their lives, said that they had no direct knowledge of any dingo attacks on humans, but from what they knew of the animal, they reasoned that a dingo would attack a human if starving and the human defenseless. Some had heard of human remains found scattered by dingoes. Scholarly experts couldn't comment due to contradictory evidence.
The first well-documented case of a dingo attack on Fraser Island is from 1988. As early as 60 years before, a newspaper account reported of problems with dingoes. Between 1996 and 2001, 279 incidents with dingoes were reported, of which 39 were assessed as "major" and one as "catastrophic".
Three reports of dingo attacks on humans caused special attention:
- On 19 August 1980 a nine-week-old girl named Azaria Chamberlain was taken by one or more dingoes near Uluru. Her mother was suspected and convicted of murder. Four years later she was released from prison when the jacket of the baby was found near Uluru. This incident caused much outcry for and against the dingoes. The story was adapted into a film named Evil Angels (also known as A Cry in the Dark) starring Meryl Streep. In 2012 a coroner concluded that sufficient evidence existed to confirm a dingo attack as cause of Azaria Chamberlain's death.
- On 30 April 2001 nine-year-old Clinton Gage was attacked and killed by two dingoes near Waddy Point on Fraser Island. The incident and the following culling of 31 dingoes caused much outcry among the residents. There were many protests and the suggestion was made to erect fences. The incident seemed to have had only a low impact on the tourism industry, and some tourists even felt safer due to the increased presence of rangers.
- In November 2012, a six-month-old dingo by the name of Inky was killed by rangers on Fraser Island after twenty-five coded incidents that included "lunging" at a family, coming out of the bushland at high speed towards volleyball players, and grabbing two tourists on separate occasions with his mouth, not breaking the skin on either occasion. For two months prior to his death, rangers had been chasing the dingo, who they had labelled "dangerous". The death sparked outrage, and Cheryl Bryant from the Save the Fraser Island Dingoes Group said that, as a juvenile, Inky's "aggressive" behaviours would be considered normal for his young age. Soon after, Inky's brother Byron was killed by rangers, although his documented incidents never reached the serious Code E level that his brother's had.
To be better prepared for dingo attacks demands were made that a better recording of problematic cases should be implemented. Also non-lethal guns, spray cans with appropriate content, whips and aversive baits should be used to increase the caution of the dingoes. "Problem-dingoes" should be killed, since relocation attempts proved to be ineffective.
The behaviour of humans might undermine these efforts; therefore the change of human behaviour is in the centre of attention. Warning signs like "Beware Dingoes" seem to have lost their effect on Fraser Island, despite their high numbers. Furthermore, some humans do not realize how adaptive and quick dingoes are. Therefore they don’t stay attentive enough and for instance don’t consider that dingoes even steal food like fruits and vegetables. In addition some tourists clarify] by the high numbers of rules in some parks and in some cases have been observed to actively feed the wild animals.[
Attacks on humans
Below is a partial list of dingo attacks and alleged dingo attacks that occurred in Australia, in reverse chronological order.
|Name, age||Date||Location, comments|
|23-year old male||28 July 2012||Fraser Island, German tourist, hospitalised, serious injuries to head, legs and arms.|
|14-year old female||15 July 2012||Jabiru Kakadu, Australian girl woke to a dingo dragging at her sleeping bag.|
|3-year old female||26 April 2011||Fraser Island, bite wounds.|
|Adult female||21 April 2009||Stuart Highway near Devils Marbles, Michelle Robson, a nurse who had just left a job at Alice Springs Hospital was travelling with her partner Ihab Hassan when their car left the road and Ms Robson was injured. Mr Hassan moved Ms Robson to the shade of a tree and went to get help. While he was gone Ms Robson had to use a stick to fend off a dingo which attacked her, and was bitten on the hand in the process.|
|4-year old female||April 2007||Fraser Island, severely bitten.|
|Clinton Gage, 9-year old male||April 2001||Waddy Point on Fraser Island, attacked and killed by two dingoes|
|Azaria Chamberlain, 2-month old||August 1980||Uluru, notorious case, mother initially convicted of the murder but later exonerated. Official verdict of death was amended to killed by dingo(es) in June 2012.|
Attacks on other animals
Dingos frequently prey on sheep, goats and cattle when they have the chance, which is why the Dingo Fence was built. Cattle are usually quite capable of defending themselves against dog attacks and the losses for cattle owners are therefore usually low, but sheep are extremely vulnerable and their behaviour in the presence of a predator can often lead to surplus killing. Some notable dingo attacks on animals which have appeared in reliable sources:
|Name, age||Date||Species||Location, comments|
|Domestic dogs||December 2011||dingo||Marrara in the northern suburbs of Darwin, Northern Territory, two dogs taken by a dingo or dingoes in two days.|
|young calf||July 2009||dingo||Kawana Forest near Caloundra, pair of young dingoes killed the calf|
|£1000 worth of sheep||1941-8||dingo||Tumbarumba, 13yo dingo "weighed 100 lb. and
measured six feet from tip to tip."
|at least 1000 sheep||1942||dingo||Captain's Flat|
|200+ sheep||1939||dingo||Billa Billa near Goondiwindi|
|"many sheep"||1937||Alsatian-dingo cross||Oranmeir near Braidwood|
|10 wallabies||1936||dingo||Melbourne Zoo|
|sheep, goats, cattle||1924||dingo||Lake Nash district, dingoes described as being extremely numerous and troublesome|
|600+ sheep||years before 1916||dingo||Between Deepwater and "Dundee River" (Dundee?)|
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- "Three Brisbane girls missing". The Courier-Mail. 11 December 1933. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Not man-killer – Australian dingo". The Courier-Mail. 12 December 1933. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
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- Günther, Janine; Mohr, Jens (2007). Das Northern Territory und weiterführende Routen (in german) (1 ed.). Gamehl: 360°. ISBN 978-3-9809763-2-9.
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- Walker, Carlie (15 November 2012). "Hunt continues for 'dangerous' dingo on Fraser". Fraser Coast Chronicle. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Walker, Carlie (5 February 2013). "Seven dingoes culled and another 10 have died on Fraser". Fraser Coast Chronicle. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
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- "Tourist in hospital after dingo attack". Big Pond News. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Crawford, Sarah (17 July 2012). "Dingo drags teen girl". NT News. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
- Cartwright, Darren (26 April 2011). "Dingo attack on girl could have been worse". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Dillon, Meagan (20 June 2013). "Crash survivor attacked by dingo". NT News. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Residents blamed for dingo attack". 2007, PM (ABC Radio), Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- McCartney, Damien (13 December 2011). "Dingo threat to suburban pet dogs". NT News. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Smith, George (13 July 2009). "Dingo attack in Queensland raises fears". news.com.au. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
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- "Dingo destroyed at Captain's Flat". The Canberra Times. 15 September 1942. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "The end of a killer". The Argus. 18 March 1939. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Chased dingo in motor-car". The Argus. 18 June 1937. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Ten wallbies dead, attacked by dingo at zoological gardens". The Argus. 14 January 1936. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
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