Wild dog walks 500km searching for a mate, disappears
HIS name is "Midnight" and over four months, he embarked on a solo 500km journey from the Big Banana to the Queensland border in search of a soulmate.
The remarkable journey of the two-year-old black dog born on the outskirts of Coffs Harbour is helping Department of Primary Industries researchers understand the secret lives of wild dogs as part of a project to better manage them.
While "Midnight" looks like a working dog, he is not a farmer's friend. The kelpie-like feral is a child of the wild, which cleverly avoided eating hundreds of fox baits along his journey looking for a mate.
Midnight has his collar fitted for tracking purposes.
He is among increasing numbers of wild dogs - many interbred with dingoes - causing alarm by their boldness in bailing up people, killing family pets and sheep, and hunting native wildlife such as wallabies.
In an effort to work out better ways of managing them, the Department of Primary Industries is tracking around 200 wild dogs across the State.
The tracking is part of a major research project which includes local councils, land and forestry services, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Aboriginal communities and farmers.
Midnight is one of 17 feral dogs tracked on the mid-north coast, along with "Qantas" which was living near Coffs Harbour airport before siring a litter which included the quaintly named "Quench McSplash".
Midnight forms a bright shape on a dark night thanks to an infra-red lens.
The department's wild dog project leader, Dr Paul Meek, said the tracking project to date had shown the dogs' behaviours were becoming more brazen.
No longer only living in deep bush, the dogs had moved closer to the "urban interface" where the wild meets development, with some living in airports, at garbage dumps and close to highways, he said.
Dr Meek said that after reaching maturity, the dogs were "kicked out of home" - a move that initiated their search for a mate.
"Midnight may have been beaten up by other dogs, so he just kept walking until he came to the dingo fence, turned back, and looked like he was heading home until his collar came off," Dr Meek said.
"We don't know how many wild dogs there are, but we do know their numbers are increasing and that they are becoming more brazen, sitting on peoples' driveways or even on airport runways.
"There are also increasing reports of attacks on livestock, people and domestic animals, with people being bailed up and small dogs being killed."
Midnight's fate after his tracking collar fell off last June is unknown.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, who spent a morning with tracking researchers, said managing a species as intelligent as a wild dog was "challenging".
However, their impact on livestock alone meant a better plan was needed, he said