Fish have been identified as one of the key diet items for Fraser Island dingoes.
Fish have been identified as one of the key diet items for Fraser Island dingoes.

Fraser Island dingo myth busted

THE myth of Fraser Island's dingoes being starving has been busted by new research that reveals a surprising main food source for the controversial animals.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Linda Behrendorff is completing a PhD study titled Diet, Ecology and Management of Dingoes on K'gari at the University of Queensland.

The ranger of 20 years has spent much of the past four researching the animals and investigating the results of more than 2500 droppings samples.

Ms Behrendorff said this gave a clear indication of what had been digested by the island's estimated 100 to 200 dingoes and there had been a standout staple.

"Bandicoot was found to be a big part of their diet. They also eat everything from insects and lizards to vegetation, turtle eggs and fish," she said.

Bandicoots are rat-like in appearance, but have longer, pointed noses, larger ears, and a long, thin tail. They have long, powerful hind legs, which they use to hop around in a rabbit-like fashion.

Fish have been identified as one of the key diet items for Fraser Island dingoes.
Fish have been identified as one of the key diet items for Fraser Island dingoes.

Fraser has long-nosed and northern varieties of the mammal, considered extremely elusive - unless, of course, you are a stealthy dingo.

Ms Behrendorff said dingoes also had seasonal food sources including whale carcasses, dugongs and turtles that wash up on the beach.

She said her research showed the animals had plenty to eat, dispelling the belief that they were going hungry and a "feeding station" would reduce negative interactions with people.

Adult dingoes on Fraser Island, which stand more than 60cm high and about 1.2m long, were found to have an average weight of about 18kg.

Ms Behrendorff said this was a higher average mass than dingoes from Kakadu (16kg), the Victorian Highlands (15kg) and Central Australia (13kg).

Dingo Nutrition Expert Linda Behrendorff at Eurong on Fraser Island. Picture: Lachie Millard
Dingo Nutrition Expert Linda Behrendorff at Eurong on Fraser Island. Picture: Lachie Millard

She reinforced recent warnings for visitors not to feed dingoes - either inadvertently through not securing food and rubbish, or deliberately - as that could lead to more problematic behaviour.

Ms Behrendorff also shone a light on how resourceful and clever the Fraser Island dingoes could be.

She said, when attracted to campsites, they had been known to open tent and annex zippers and even undo metal clasps on portable camp fridges. Smelly shoes and boots were a favourite item to steal.

Another observation was that juvenile dingoes were more prone to nuisance behaviour and interactions with humans.

Bandicoots are the most surprising food source for the dingoes on Fraser Island.
Bandicoots are the most surprising food source for the dingoes on Fraser Island.

Management of dingoes and how to protect the island's 400,000 annual visitors has been in the spotlight after a spike in attacks.

The latest, and most shocking, involved a 14-month-old boy dragged from a camper trailer and rescued by his father on Good Friday.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch last Friday announced a raft of measures, including massive fines for illegal feeding, greater collaboration with the local Butchulla People, more fenced areas (resorts and some camp sites currently are fenced) and a review of the dingo management strategy that will include a look at visitor numbers.

More than 400,000 people flock to the World Heritage-listed island each year with the Department of Environment and Science saying the island's maximum camping capacity is 4038, reached during peak holiday periods.