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Dingo attacks are rare, but here’s what you need to know about dingo safety


Australia has an ambivalent relationship with dingoes – to some they are almost magical depictions of our arid landscapes, responsible for holding back a tidal wave foxes And feral catsas found in some studies.

To others they are vermin, dangerous marauders of our livestock and sheep. We even argue about what to call them. They also loom large in our national conscience as potential murderers of children, as evidenced by a recent dingo attack on a child on K’gari (Fraser Island).

Why do dingoes attack?

Dingo attacks on humans are very rare, and in most cases where humans have been attacked the dingoes have gotten used to humans and perhaps lost some fear of them.

This is usually because they have come to associate humans with food, but not necessarily if food. This type of habituation is seen in many animals around the world, including large carnivores such as bears And coyotes in North America, and even spotted hyenas in Ethiopia.

The recent attack on K’gari however, has another facet. The child was attacked while sitting on the beach in shallow water, and the event highlights that dingoes can be predators. There is no evidence that the dingo tried to take food from the child; it is possible that it was prudent to see if the child was suitable as prey.

In areas such as K’gari dingo, safety information is distributed to keep everyone safe.

Children as prey

a Study from 2017 of the dingo attacks on K’gari showed that most of the dingoes involved were young, and children who were some distance from an adult were often attacked.

In 2001, a nine-year-old boy tragically died by two dingoes on K’gari as he stood some distance from the rest of his family and stumbled and fell. A five year old boy who was badly bitten by dingoes on K’gari in 2022 was attacked when his older brother ran away from him.

In all these cases, even though there were other humans around, the dingoes chose the smallest and most separated individual. This suggests that a hunting response has been activated – a child is not much larger than normal dingo prey (such as wallabies). The dingoes involved may have been young and exploratory.

You can even often see such reactions in zoo animals – lions, tigers and other big cats often ignore adult people who watch them, but get excited when they see a child; the smaller size seems to provoke a predatory response.

How can you stay safe from dingoes?

The bottom line is that dingoes are wild animals and can sometimes act as predators to us, especially the tiniest humans.

Dingoes are found throughout Australia, although they are less common in pastoral areas where lethal control takes place. They tend to avoid humans whenever possible. K’gari dingoes are protected because of their high conservation value, as they show few signs of inbreeding with domestic dogs. As a result, these dingoes on the island are much bolder. Visitors must treat them with respect.

So how do we stay safe? We should always be alert around such animals, especially in places where dingoes are more common and bolder. As with all wildlife, we should leave dingoes alone as much as possible and keep a respectful distance. We should also avoid leaving food behind as that could attract attention in the first place.

But if you encounter a dingo (or several), you should do the following:

  • stay alert and keep a safe distance
  • avoid being alone or, if you’re in a group, don’t spread out too far
  • stay close to any children in your group
  • do not run or turn your back on the dingo as this could trigger an attack.

People often feel that they should not act aggressively when approached by a carnivore, but keep studying wolves And cougars suggesting that yelling and throwing things is actually more likely to prevent an attack – don’t be afraid to resort to this if you feel threatened.

Anything that makes you, or the people with you, seem less like prey—less enticing—is good. Stay safe, but most importantly respect these animals for the wild creatures they are.

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

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