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Koalas and dog attacks

Koalas and dogs don't mix

Did you know that even the most placid and small dogs can attack koalas? When dogs attack koalas, they are acting on their natural instincts which may be - territorial, fear based or prey driven.

Dog attacks on koalas are among the most significant threats that need to be addressed. This page provides more information about how dog owners can play their part in protecting koalas.

koalas and dogs don't mix

Did you know that even the most placid and small dogs can attack koalas? When dogs attack koalas, they are acting on their natural instincts which may be - territorial, fear based or prey driven.

Dog attacks on koalas are among the most significant threats that need to be addressed. This oage provides more information about how dog owners can play their part in protecting koalas.

sick or Injured koalas

Sick or injured koalas are often slow to respond, if at all, to humans and can be touched without responding. They are generally found low to the ground or on the ground except when moving between trees, and can stay in the same tree without moving for more than a few days. Their gait is abnormal or uneven, and they can be disorientated, walking in circles. 

A koala sitting on the ground, unresponsive to what is around it, is a very sick koala and needs attention IMMEDIATELY. 

Call our 24/7 Koala Rescue Hotline if you live in the Northern Rivers of NSW or your local wildlife organisation if outside this area – search online for your local wildlife organisation or check the IFAW Wildlife App which connects you with the closest licensed wildlife rescue group at the touch of a button. 

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Koala dog bit injury

dog bites

Some injuries, such as bleeding from any part of their body or broken bones are obvious. However, some injuries, such as dog bites, are often not visible, but if there are dogs in the vicinity there’s always a chance that the dog (no matter how small) has bitten a koala. In these cases, contact you local koala rescue group immediately.

why dogs attack koalas

Not all dogs attack koalas however the sight of a koala can trigger some dogs, particularly larger dogs over 10kg. The likelihood of an attack increases further with the presence of more than one dog. A dog may attack a koala because they were surprised and the attack is fear-based, they may also be protecting their territory or they may be exhibiting their natural prey drive - some dog breeds have a higher prey drive than others.

Dog attacks can be horrific, even small breeds can cause extensive damage and devastatingly, even if intervention is possible, the injuries are so severe, that the koala is beyond help.

Zelly was found by a lovely member of the public trying to get out of the backyard.
Zelly was found by a lovely member of the public trying to get out of the backyard.
Clover was attacked by multiple dogs and had severe injuries as a result
Clover was attacked by multiple dogs and had severe injuries as a result

co-existence

Koalas are protected wildlife and were officially classified as endangered on the 12th of February 2022 under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – specifically the combined populations of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory.

However they had been struggling long before then, the reasons are many but human activity remains the primary threat to koalas specifically land clearing. We are now living in koala habitat, we share the same backyards and koalas are going to find their way onto our properties.

koala activity

Koalas are widely distributed across the six council areas of far north coast NSW. Whilst they are tree-dwelling animals they do come down to the ground to move between trees. An urban koala may travel 20kms in a week between trees and buildings, across backyards and roads in search of food, a mate or territory. Male koalas are particularly vulnerable because when they were mating or dispersing they spend more time on the ground.

Junior sustained a very nasty leg injury believed from a dog attack
Junior sustained a very nasty leg injury believed from a dog attack
Jaxson had a very serious dog bite to the hand
Jaxson had a very serious dog bite to the hand

did you know?

On average, over 70% of koalas die after being attacked by dogs in the Northern Rivers. At least 115 koalas have suffered from dog attacks in the region since 2009 and only 22 were released according to Friends of the Koala. Dog attacks on koalas occur mostly at night, in backyards, occur at higher levels during spring and summer and nearly always result in death. In some areas, dog attack is one of the highest causes of koala fatalities.

owner responsibility

Dogs, if not kept under control can attack and kill koalas. Responsible pet ownership is important to protect them. Owners may be unaware of the real danger but they do have a responsibility to keep dogs on leads in all places where koalas may be present. Stray animals or pets not under control should be reported to the local council. It is worth noting that koalas have sharp teeth and claws, capable of causing deep wounds to dogs.

Ayla developed large abscesses around her hind end -we suspect dog or cat bites.
Ayla developed large abscesses around her hind end -we suspect dog or cat bites.
Spencer had dog bite wounds, mainly to his rump and some superficial grazes around his head and neck.
Spencer had dog bite wounds, mainly to his rump and some superficial grazes around his head and neck.

what can you do

Don't presume your dog is koala-friendly. Manage your dogs environment so he/she is unable to attack koalas, consider supervising your dog in the yard. Bring your dog inside with you at night (koalas are most active evening, night and early morning), enclose your verandah with a gate, or create a secure dog run. Koalas have a lot to negotiate in a backyard, consider a koala friendly backyard by putting escape poles, climbing routes and trees near fences. Ask your neighbours to do similar. Even the most gentle, playful and trained dogs can still attack koalas, however 'leave it' obedience training can help to keep our koalas safe.

if an incident happens

Sometimes despite prevention attempts, an encounter, bite or worse can happen. Koalas might seem unharmed, dazed or even race up a tree, but past cases show they are likely to need care. Secure your dog inside and please immediately call for help or advice Friends of the Koala Rescue 24hr Koala Rescue Hotline (02) 6622 1233.

Supporters

Proudly delivered by the Northern Rivers Koala Partnership (made up of six councils and Friends of the Koala), and supported by the NSW Government, this initiative aims to unite communities in safeguarding koalas and their habitats.

Koala Conversations Partners