Dingo attacks on humans are rare but are known to happen. Dingoes are a danger to livestock, especially sheep and young cattle. The 5,614 kilometre Dingo Fence was constructed in Southeast Australia to protect the livestock there from attacks.
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.
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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 three girls were found unharmed two days later. Dingoes played no part in their disappearance.
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 known as Inky was killed by rangers on Fraser Island after continued aggressive and dangerous behaviour towards people. The dangerous behaviour 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. Rangers attempted to trap the dangerous dingo for a month before they were successful. The captured animal was then euthanised. One Dingo advocacy group argued that, as a juvenile, the dingo'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.
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|
|2 unnamed females in 20s or 30s||26 October 2014||Fraser Island, two Australian women bitten whilst jogging, one of the women was hospitalised|
|Family||November 2012||A six-month-old dingo was killed by rangers on Fraser Island after continued aggressive and dangerous behaviour towards people. The dangerous behaviour 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. Rangers attempted to trap the dangerous dingo for a month before they were successful. The captured animal was then euthanised. One dingo advocacy group argued that, as a juvenile, the dingo's aggressive behaviours would be considered normal for his young age. Soon after the dingo's brother was killed by rangers, although documented incidents for this dog never reached the serious Code E level his brother's had.|
|Unnamed 23-year-old male||28 July 2012||Fraser Island, German tourist, hospitalised, serious injuries to head, legs and arms.|
|Unnamed 14-year-old female||15 July 2012||Jabiru Kakadu, Australian girl woke to a dingo dragging her sleeping bag.|
|3-year old unnamed female||26 April 2011||A three-year-old girl was attacked on Fraser Island by two dingoes. She suffered serious puncture wounds to her leg.|
|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.|
|Unnamed 4-year-old female||April 2007||Fraser Island, severely bitten.|
|Clinton Gage, 9-year-old male||April 2001||Clinton Gage was attacked and killed by two dingoes near Waddy Point on Fraser Island. The incident and the resultant culling of 31 dingoes caused a large outcry among the residents. There were many protests and the suggestion was made to erect fences.|
|3-year-old Norwegian girl||April 1998||Bitten and scratched by a dingo.|
|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?)|
Articles published about dingo attacks blame them on habituation, especially through the intentional and unintentional feeding of dingoes. The more frequently these animals are fed or allowed to scavenge on waste food, the more likely they are to react aggressively towards humans when they no longer receive or find food. It is further thought[who?] that dingoes might have started to regard the food sources found (garbage cans, leftovers and handouts) as part of their territory. Attacks then occur with humans seen as competition, and dingoes simply reacting to protect their food supply.
Even when habituation to humans seems to be the general cause for attacks, it is not absolutely clear, and therefore the overall threat towards people is not known for sure. Some attacks might result from the "play" of young pups, especially with children. Attacks can also be caused by mistaken reactions of humans to aggressive and dominant behaviour of dingoes. That some dingoes might regard humans as prey is a possibility, as children or incapacitated adults could be theoretically overpowered. Dr. Bradley Smith[who?] said that Fraser Island has a problem with humans and not with the dingoes, that dogs who were labelled "aggressive" were simply behaving naturally.
The behaviour of humans might undermine efforts to guard against dingo attacks. Therefore, the change in human behaviour is at the centre of attention.[who?] Warning signs like "Beware of Dingoes" seem to have lost their effect on Fraser Island, despite the high number of such signs. Furthermore, some humans[which?] do not realise how adaptive and quick dingoes are. Therefore, humans do not remain attentive enough. They[who?] do not consider, for instance, that dingoes steal food like fruits and vegetables. In addition, some tourists seemed to be confused by the high number of rules in some parks, and they have been prompted in some cases to actively feed the wild animals.
- Lawrance, Kate; Higginbottom, Karen (2002). "Behavioural Responses of Dingoes to Tourist on Fraser Island" (PDF). Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- "Risk Assessment: Risk to humans posed by the dingo population on Fraser Island" (PDF). Environmental Protection Agency. May 2001. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Beckmann, E.; Savage, Gillian (June 2003). "Evaluation of Dingo Education Strategy and Programs for Fraser Island and Literature review: Communicating to the public about potentially dangerous wildlife in natural settings" (PDF). Queensland Government. Retrieved 14 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
- Parks and Wildlife Service. "A Management Program for the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) in the Northern Territory of Australia, 2006–2011" (PDF). Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "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.
- "Missing Girls Found". The Sun. 11 December 1933. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
- Günther, Janine; Mohr, Jens (2007). Das Northern Territory und weiterführende Routen (in German) (1 ed.). Gamehl: 360°. ISBN 978-3-9809763-2-9.
- "Mother jailed in dingo baby murder". BBC-News. 29 October 1982. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "Little hope for baby girl taken by wild dog at Ayers Rock". The Sydney Morning Herald. 19 August 1980. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "Australian coroner finds dingo took baby Azaria in 1980". The Guardian. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Walker, Carlie (28 January 2013). "What led to Fraser Island dingo Inky's death". Fraser Coast Chronicle. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- 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.
- "Two Australian tourists in hospital after being attacked by dingoes on Fraser Island". Daily Mail. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- Walker, Carlie (5 February 2013). "Seven dingoes culled and another 10 have died on Fraser". Fraser Coast Chronicle. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
- "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.
- "Girl mauled by Fraser Island dingoes". ABC-News. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- 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
- Jane Duckworth. Not Every Dog Has His Day: The Treatment of Dogs in Australia.
- 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. Archived from the original on 15 July 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Dingo shot at Tumbarumba". The Canberra Times. 30 January 1948. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "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.
- "Large dingo caught". The Argus. 20 May 1933. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Dingo pest". Northern Territory Times and Gazette. 16 May 1924. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "A dingo with a past". The Advertiser. 27 December 1916. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Walker, Carlie (5 January 2013). "Island has a problem with people, not dingoes: researcher". Fraser Coast Chronicle. Retrieved 2 February 2013.