Inflatable people could help with dingo management

Published:15 October 2020

An inflatable man known as 'Fred-a-scare' has been trialled as a non-lethal approach to managing dingo problems.

The wavey, inflatable people often used to attract the attention of customers to street-side businesses could find a place in non-lethal, dingo management.

A recent study lead by CQUniversity senior lecturer in psychology who specialises in dingoes and human-wildlife conflict, Dr Bradley Smith, showed that an oversized, inflatable human effigy, dubbed ‘Fred-a-scare’, could deter captive dingoes from accessing food, providing hope that dingoes and humans can coexist successfully without resorting to lethal management techniques.

Dr Smith said Fred-a-scare seemed a bit comical at first, but using a human-like figure was inspired by the traditional way livestock were managed using human shepherds.

"It works because dingoes are generally fearful of people and novelty, and this device is quite intimidating and involves unpredictable movement. We plan to make it even 'scarier' by incorporating lights, sounds and smells," explained Dr Smith.

“This is all in the search for non-lethal approaches to dingo management. It will hopefully give us some added tools in our dingo management tool kit to help enable dingoes and humans to live side-by-side.”

Dr Smith said the majority of dingo management centres around lethal control, but this experiment shows that with some effort, we can find innovative non-lethal solutions to the problems affecting livestock producers, campgrounds and mining operations where dingoes can become a nuisance.

“This device was particularly exciting because it was really effective. Not only did the dingoes find it aversive, they couldn’t get far enough away from it. It was also resistant to habituation which is a significant barrier to overcome when developing non-lethal approaches.”

Dr Smith said although the results of the study was promising, more research needed to be undertaken.

“We are now looking at testing this device in the field. It’s not a silver bullet. It certainly shows promise in many contexts, but will only be effective if used as part of broader livestock management practices.”

The study was funded by a CQUniversity merit grant.

The research was published in Pacific Conservation Biology.