Wildlife now dogged by man's best friend?

World-wide problem for wildlife.

What is the most widespread predator in most landscapes? Dogs are, and they have important impacts to many wildlife species. From deer and elk to nesting birds to just about any species they interact with, they can be a nuisance, disease carrier, and predator.

Wildlife now dogged by man’s best friend?
by Laura Zuckerman – Reuters.





  1. mikepost Avatar

    Here I thought the common house cat, feral and tame, was the king of destruction in the wild, particularly for birds.

    I do know several hunters who will “remove” a dog(s) from the wilderness if it is observed chasing wildlife of any kind. A more benevelant form of “SSS” I guess than is normally discussed here.

  2. JimT Avatar

    Article reads like a fluff piece….very little science, bad examples of comparing wild dogs in Asia to domesticated dogs in Colorado…the list goes on. I am NO fan of letting dogs run, and there are times I feel the best thing a town could do is impose mandatory training as a condition of having any dog…Great Dane to an ankle biter. But, this sensationalism just goes way too far.

    Mikepost, you are right. It is cats that is a major problem..not only birds, but chipmunks, etc. The only way I would ever let a cat out of the house is if we had a “cattery” for it..a totally enclosed area where it was safe and wildlife was safe from it.

    As far as the hunters are concerned, do they know the dog? No. Could be a lost dog doing what it needs to do to survive..can you blame the dog? Very different from the dog down the road from a farm that keeps raiding the chicken house, or a dog whose owner lets it run and it has been verified that it has been responsible for deer deaths. And the answer is punishing the owner, not the dog, because if you kill the dog, you have done nothing to solve the root cause of the problem…an irresponsible human who will just assume his dog ran away and go and get another one.

  3. Kropotkin Man Avatar
    Kropotkin Man

    While living in NM a few years back, a man was treed by a pack of feral dogs in the county (Grant) where I lived. He was bitten a few times and suffered from exposure over almost 2 days. Nothing was done to track the dogs or find their “owners”.

    Same area a few months later, a mountain lion was eating dog food that someone left out over night. The cat was tracked down and killed even though it was never reported as a hazard to people.

    I witnessed a pack of feral dogs down in Dade County, FL; rip into a litter of kittens. I’ve never seen anything so horrible. I’ve worked the field for years and have seen many, many kills. But nothing comes close to the way that pack of dogs operated. It still bothers me. The feral dogs in Dade County after Hurricane Andrew were quite a problem. An open season on them would have been appropriate.

  4. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    I have “offended” many dog owners because of my forthcoming about their off-leash dogs’ interactions with wildlife (and I am a dog owner). When I see dogs in the middle of a prarie dog colony or chasing fox or coyote I give the humans’ a schooling. Feral dogs are one thing but uneducated and lazy domestic dog owners are another. While I agree with JimT that the article is poorly written, I believe that the basis has plenty of merit.

    1. jon Avatar

      You need to throw hunting dogs in there too as they harass wildlife. I agree with you though. People should keep their dogs on a leesh. I don’t think domestic dogs should be killed for running after wildlife. This issue wouldn’t be a problem if some dog owners were just more responsible and decided not to let their dogs run around unleashed.

  5. PointsWest Avatar

    A. Dogs, domesticated dogs, have been in the Amreicas longer that deer, elk, moose, coyotes, wolves and many other species. They’ve been here for at least 17,000 years. Their ability to transmit disease could not be too much of a shock to the ecosystem.

    B. Being domesticated, dogs rarely survive away from human habitation. Unless they are very large, even coyotes will attach dogs as prey. Coyotes killing dogs and cats here in So. Cal. is a big problem.

    C. The article cites some big numbers but probably something like 98% of all feral dogs are in towns and cities living off garbage and handouts.

    I am all for controlling feral dogs but cannot believe they are much of a threat to wildlife except in some very special circumstances.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      I agree that it is minor. I think they are more likely to attack livestock that pastures near where the dogs live. With livestock they take numbers similar to wolves in areas where they overlap. . . . . a nuisance, but one that causes very unpleasant wounds because feral dogs don’t really know how to kill.

  6. Daniel Berg Avatar
    Daniel Berg


    I’ve heard that there are many feral cats in southern California.

    How effective do you think coyotes are in controlling feral cat populations? I saw a statistic the other day that showed how cats can reproduce at a mind-blowing pace. Apparently a pair of cats can turn into 11,801 in 5 years with a kitten survival rate of 2.8 and two litters per year.

    I’ve never been especially fond of domesticated/feral cats so I found this statistic particularly disturbing.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I’m always so pleased when a coyote wanders through our cat infested semi-rural neighborhood and cleans things up.

    2. PointsWest Avatar

      You know, since we have such a mild climate, you’d think there would be a feral cat problem here. I guess the cities do a good job at keeping it under control, at least in West LA where I live. There may be problems in areas like South Central. I don’t know since I seldom go there. I do think anywhere near the hills or parks, coyotes control feral cat populations.

      By far the woarst feral cat problem I’ve seen is in the city of Rome near the historic center. Cats can live in all the ruins (that are largely underground) and get handouts from tourists. Only cats I’ve ever seen that eat bread.


      1. jon Avatar

        What is the temperate there right now pw? Have you ever been to Compton or Oakland?

      2. PointsWest Avatar

        It has been nice the past few days with afternoon temps in the low 70’s. It can be very clear in the winter so you tend to seek shade on warm afternoons. It is cool at night. My little boy wanted me to get out the inflatable swimming pool out last weekend.

        I have been to both Compton and Oakland. Compton is part of South Central, sort of. It is a dangerous part of town. Oakland is far away in the Bay Area, across the bay from San Fransico. I go there quite a bit since my old company had offices in Concord which is served by the Oakland Airport. Also, San Francisco is a fun town for small vacations and we might go accross the bay to Oakland for one reason or another. I go to San Francisco on business quite a bit too. My last two companies had offices there and we, at the very least, would fly up for the Christmas Party there for two nights. San Franciso is cold, even in the middle of summer. Yet, just across the hills, it can be over 100 degrees in someplace like Pleasanton. The marine layer, the onshore flow, and the mountain ranges on the west coast create the strangest climates in the world.

        Another strange phenomena is that the mountains above Los Angles are usually much warmer than the LA Basin. It can be 95 degrees at 8,000 feet in the San Gabriel Range while it is 70 degrees here in Culver City which is near sea level. Last Year they set a record at Woodland Hills, just 6 miles across the Santa Monica Moutains at 105 degrees when it was barely 80 here in Culver City.

        The Bay Area is even stranger with more extremes. The Pacific (not the Bay) is ice cold even in summer. There is reason they call it the Alaska Current. When I put my feet in, I thought, “Alaska”! The water temps of the Pacific in the South Bay areas of LA is much warmer in the summer. …in the 70’s and ejoyable to be in.
        The affect is many micro-climates along the Calif Coast. Certain things will live in just one spot a few miles wide by maybe a couple of dozen miles long. Then you go over the ridge, and the climate and vegitation completely change. It is strangely beautiful and interesting. My favorite area is north of LA in the Santa Barbara area north to San Simeon. There are many seals and sea lions on the beaches and the landscapes are unique. Just inland is the one California’s wine growing regions and is where the movie Sideways was filmed. They have a law that you cannot cut a Black Oak tree so these huge trees dot the landscape everywhere, even in the middle of farm fields and vinyards. Black Oaks are typically spaced about 200 yards appart. I cannot describe how interesting that looks. I mean, are you in an oak forest, or a farming region?

      3. PointsWest Avatar

        This photo is on a hazy day and in some areas the oaks are thicker but this is what it looks like around Paso Robles.


      4. jon Avatar

        That is some amazing weather you are having this time of year it seems. PW, have you and your family ever been to the la brea tar pits?

  7. Angela Avatar

    My take on dogs is that loose pets are probably more of a problem than feral dogs–the cumulative effect of millions of off-leash dogs accompanying humans. In rural and semi-rural areas, every family has at least one dog and they tend to keep the wildlife on the run. Without the dog, a large piece of property might still provide valuable wildlife habitat, but the wildlife becomes entertainment for the dogs. It’s one reason why I have never had a dog, although I think about it now and then. I dislike walking with my friends who have upland bird dogs–they are constantly ranging around, covering several hundred feet of area on all sides of their human.

    Dogs are very disruptive to shorebirds during migration and breeding. It’s very rare that you see a leashed dog on the beach. You can understand the bioenergetic problem of dogs constantly chasing birds that need to make thousand-mile migrations. One of the species impacted by dogs is the Snowy Plover, a beach-nesting shorebird. Dogs will also dig up sea turtle nests.

    So, I do think dogs have impact in that way–death by a thousand cuts so to speak. I realize that dogs want to run and people want them to be free, but where there is wildlife, I would rather see them leashed. There are ways to train dogs not to chase wildlife too.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      There are some beaches in California where people cannot go when endangered birds are nesting. I’m sure dogs are the woarst of all.

      I had a dog when I was young that, one summer, started disapearing at night. I heard complaints that there was a pack of dogs chasing stock just outside of town and that I’d better keep her home. I succeeded for a few weeks but I was a kid and got lazy or just forgot about it. Then one morning she never came back. I later heard that the farmer started shooting the dogs. He had warned everyone. I never saw that dog again.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        Adds a bit of a twist to the old story, “we had a dog once, but I was too young to take care of it, so my parents found a new home for it on a farm where it could run with other dogs.”

  8. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    Thought this was appropriately related to this discussion- from the CO Division of Wildlife’s website
    “Dogs observed chasing or harassing wildlife can be shot by law enforcement officers. A landowner can shoot a dog that is harassing livestock. Most cities and counties in Colorado also have leash laws that require keeping pets secure.Pets allowed to run at large also are at risk from vehicles and predators. If you care about your pets, it’s in their best interest to keep them secured, DelPiccolo said. ”

    I have an aquaintence whose dog was shot & killed by the CODOW last winter for chasing elk into the Animas River.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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