Feral dog feeding on a Blackbuck © Prasad Natrajan
Dogs, without a doubt, are man’s best friends. The descendants of wolves, dogs have played a major role in our lives by being our companions. However, over time, they have also emerged as a grave danger to wild birds and animal species.
When it comes to India, feral and free-ranging dog population is highly unregulated and unchecked, creating woes of its own. According to researchers working with Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS-I), dogs are capable of hunting down wildlife even in Protected Areas (PAs).
“PAs often are adjoining villages or suburbs. Dogs in these establishments are a mere necessity to keep predatory animals at bay. They are often fed scraps and leftovers. However, fueled by hunger and predatory instincts, these dogs are capable of hunting down nearby wild animals. Apart from opportunistic hunts, they are also trained to hunt during poaching expeditions,” said a researcher at WCS.
In many forest areas with water scarcity, indigenous people choose to settle near water bodies. While wild animals avoid such water holes during the day due to human presence, there is no respite as night falls as well, as dogs take over, creating panic and stress.
“Village dogs are always seen barking at and chasing wild animals while they come for a drink. These dogs not only harm wildlife by attacking them, but also by transmitting diseases. Canine Distemper virus is known to effectively wipe out entire population of wild animals. There are records of wild dog packs and other rare animals suffering from Mange. Due to inadequate studies on these animals or difficulties to come across one, it is even more difficult to understand the effects of such non-lethal diseases in bigger population,” said the researcher.
Dogs have been known to be reproductively compatible with many of their wild cousins too and as a result, there are many records of canid hybrids. Such hybrids could lead to anomalies over a period of time.
Ignorance and unwillingness to monitor such threats to wild animals have turned our best friend, into wildlife’s biggest foe.
Written by Anisha Iyer with inputs from WCS-India staff