Pig dogs are usually large mixed breed dogs and are known to attack and kill cassowaries and other wildlife. In Queensland a hunter is permitted to use 3 hunting dogs and a pair of hunters up to 5 dogs. These dogs are required to be extremely well trained to track only pig scent however the sport is growing in popularity with inexperienced pig hunters. Hunters use dogs in rainforest and many hunt at night which is a particularly vulnerable time for sleeping cassowaries which are diurnal (daytime) birds1. Unless exceptionally well trained, pig dogs will attack animals such as cassowaries, tree kangaroos and ground mammals as readily as they will a pig. The hunter's response may be to allow his dogs to kill the animal, to call them off or to shoot the animal so that the dogs do not waste valuable hunting time. Dogs trained well enough to ignore native fauna are likely to be the exception rather than the rule2. It has been estimated that recreational hunters kill 15-20% of the feral pig population in accessible areas annually3.
Hunting pigs with dogs involves the dog flushing out the pig and chasing it until it is exhausted or cornered. When the pig has been ‘bailed up’ the hunter moves in to either shoot the pig at close range or kill it by stabbing in the heart with a knife (‘sticking’). If the hunter plans to stick the pig rather than shoot it, dogs are used to hold (‘lug’) the pig by the ears while it is being stabbed4.
The use of recreational hunters to control pig numbers is seldom effective they kill only a small percentage of the population, disperse pigs through regular disturbance and hunt on relatively small, easily accessible areas. Hunters have also been known to take actions that are in direct opposition to effective pig control to ensure their sport in future seasons5 . The use of dogs to hunt pigs, either to flush them out of shelter, or to chase and catch them has been criticized by animal welfare groups, but is currently legal throughout Queensland. The success of dogs capturing pigs has been studied and results show that solitary pigs are caught on 90% of the occasions when chased 6, when groups of pigs are encountered only one is usually caught and only about 70% of those chased are caught7. Another risk associated with using dogs is them becoming lost and their subsequently becoming ‘feral’, preying on stock and native animals.