Feral Dogs – A Growing Threat to Wildlife

by Kesavamurthy N
Kesavamurthy N

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

In addition to posing as competition to wild carnivores, as demonstrated here, feral dogs are known reservoirs of epidemic-causing infectious pathogens of many wild carnivores.

The grasslands of Tal Chhapar in Rajasthan are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Blackbuck dominate the park landscape and during winter, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers. Majestic raptors, fast-flying falcons, agile wheatears, spiny-tailed lizards, the list goes on. While the park has a well balanced ecosystem, wildlife does spill out of the park due to various reasons. Villagers often dump carcasses of their dead animals for open burials at the nearby Goshala. These carcasses attract scavengers, like Egyptian Vultures and Griffons. For feral dogs, this is an easy meal. I’ve often wondered if anyone screens these carcasses for diclofenac -– the main culprit behind the declining vulture population in India.

Predators like the Desert Fox thrive in this arid dry region scouting for spiny tailed lizards and other small rodents. During my last visit to the park, we spotted this already thin, sick and malnourished fox desperately looking for food. After few minutes, he found a small bone from a carcass nearby. He’d occasionally lift his head and lookout for any danger. I felt really happy that he’d found something to munch on and I decided to lie still till he moved out.

Suddenly he stopped chewing and looked at my direction for a couple of minutes. Just as I looked over my right shoulder, he took to his heels. It took few seconds for me to understand what was happening in front of me. A feral/stray dog chased the fox, while the latter ran at top speed. Had this been a natural occurrence, I wouldn’t have bothered, however feral dogs are part of the landscape because of human excesses. So I got up and tried to create some noise to just break the chase. However both of them went behind the bush and we never got to know what happened next to the fox. I just hope he lived to see another day.

Editor’s note: Dogs behaving like predators are a real threat to wildlife in many ways. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that India alone is home to 25-30 million domestic dogs. When such high numbers of dogs include even a small amount of wildlife in their diet, collectively they can have a serious impact. To read more about this serious note click here: feral dogs as threat to wildlife.

About the author

Kesavamurthy N
Kesava is a Bangalore-based naturalist and wildlife photographer.


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