Dogs and koalas
Koalas are one of the most recognised animals in Australia; however, they are under threat of extinction. Queensland was once home to millions of koalas, but the present koala population is a fraction of that size. It is estimated there may be as few as 100,000 left in existence statewide.
Koalas are now listed as vulnerable in Queensland under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and also in the South East Queensland bioregion under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.
As a dog owner, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of your pet attacking a koala.
Animal local law
Brisbane City Council’s Animals Local Law 2003 ensures that animals are kept in a manner that prevents injury to people and other animals.
It's important to take appropriate action to prevent your dog from attacking wildlife. Under the law, the keeper of a roaming dog that attacks wildlife may receive a fine if appropriate action hasn't been taken.
How dogs pose a threat to koalas
Dogs (wild and domestic) are the third most significant threat to koalas, after habitat clearing and road trauma.
Koalas are in danger of being attacked when they enter residential properties and nearby bushland in search of food trees and breeding partners.
A dog instinctively reacts to a koala entering its territory as a threat and in most cases will attack it. Some dogs may treat it as a play object; however, the dog's sharp teeth and claws can still seriously injure the koala. Statistics from the Moggill Koala Hospital show that 80 percent of koalas attacked by dogs die from their injuries.
How to find out if there are koalas on or near your property
Although koalas live in trees, they descend to the ground to move from tree to tree.
You can do the following to see if there are koalas at your property:
- look for koalas in the forks of trees
- check for scratch marks on tree trunks - the koala's sharp, strong claws leave characteristic scratch marks on smooth bark
- examine the ground for koala droppings - hard, firmly packed cylindrical droppings that contain coarse fragments of leaf and have a strong eucalyptus smell
- listen for distinctive bellows, grunts and low-pitched snarls of males (usually heard during the breeding season from July to December)
- check for a strong musky scent, which is produced by adult males during breeding season (July to December)
Visit the Land for Wildlife website to find information on wildlife-friendly fencing and other methods of protecting your domestic pets and native wildlife.
What you can do to prevent an attack
As a dog owner, you can do the following to reduce the chances of your dog attacking a koala:
- restrain your dog during the night. During koala breeding season (July to December) it is recommended that you also restrain your dog during the day
- if you have gum trees on or near your property, check them regularly before allowing your dog to roam
- install an animal-proof boundary fence at your property, to ensure your dog is secured and unable to roam
- install an animal-proof fence, which still allows your dog freedom to move within some parts of your property, but prevents it from attacking wildlife in other parts. Koalas can climb some fences, so make sure fencing will prevent koalas entering the designated territory of the dog
- notify your neighbours of any koala sightings in your area
- walk your dog on a leash, unless you're in a designated off-leash area
Getting help for injured koalas
There are a number of organisations and facilities in Brisbane with experience in the care and rehabilitation of injured wildlife.
If you have found an injured koala, or your dog is responsible for the accidental injury of a koala or other native species, contact any of the following organisations for advice:
- RSPCA - phone 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
- Daisy Hill Koala Ambulance - phone 0412 429 898
- Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital - phone 1300 369 652
- Moggill Koala Hospital - phone 07 3202 0231
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary - phone 07 3378 1366
- Brisbane City Council - phone 07 3403 8888