FEB 12, 2019 7:13 PM PST

Man's Best Friend - Wildlife's Worst Enemy?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Established as one of man’s best friends, dogs can seemingly be found in almost every other household you visit. But while humans may enjoy dogs’ company, research published in the Journal of Environmental Management underscores a more sinister side to the story: the fact that free-ranging and feral dogs impose a serious threat to various forms of wildlife.

A dog allowed to roam the wilderness freely can be bad for animals that live there.

Image Credit: Pixabay

New research on this highly-debated topic finds that domestic dogs threaten more than 200 species worldwide; among those, many are recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable to extinction. Citing the BBC, the organization’s Red List describes 30 of those 200 species as critically endangered, 71 as endangered, and 87 as vulnerable; these range in variety from amphibians, to birds, to mammals, to reptiles.

To be clear, household dogs aren’t the problem; it’s those that can roam the wilderness freely without limitation. Free-ranging dogs, such as those that aren’t fenced or leashed, tend to harass and harm certain wild animals in their free time. Feral dogs, which have no present owner, are considered guilty of the same malicious behavior.

Said malicious behavior purportedly includes predation, competition for prey, disturbing and harassing wildlife, and transmitting diseases, among other things. To make matters worse, free-ranging and feral dogs may interbreed with wolves, resulting in a loss of wolf gene purity.

"Conservationists in Chile and elsewhere see an urgency in controlling the impact of free-ranging dogs on wildlife," the researchers wrote.

"Predation and harassment by dogs have been documented for the majority of larger terrestrial mammals that inhabit Chile, including the three species of canids (mammals from the dog family) and three species of deer," study co-author Eduardo Silva-Rodriguez explained to the BBC.

Related: Decoding the various body languages of your dog

It’s believed that there are more than one billion domestic dogs around the globe, and pet owners appear to share vastly different views when it comes to their dogs. Specifically, most dog owners that had been educated about the circumstances surrounding free-ranging dogs and the impact on the environment displayed little or no concern about the matter.

"It's quite a matter of serious concern," added Piero Genovesi, an invasive species specialist from the IUCN. "As the human population rises, so will the number of dogs, and this problem could get worse."

Related: Red wolf DNA discovered in unusual canines

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States isn’t the primary suspect concerning impacted regions. A similar study published a year earlier in the journal Biological Conservation found that hotspots for free-ranging dog activities included parts of Asia, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. Notably, these regions are chock-full of dense forests known to provide habitats for unique forms of wildlife.

As it would seem, there’s a substantial problem afoot, but formulating a solution to such a complex issue has proven to be anything but simple. To make matters worse, the problem is often ignored in place of more pressing issues; consequently, wildlife continues to pay the price as time is wasted.

With the issue receiving a fresh bit of attention as of late, it should be interesting to see if conservationists will investigate the problem more fully and develop a means of resolving it. Then again, only time will tell…

Source: BBC, Biological Conservation, Journal of Environmental Management

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 16, 2021
Plants & Animals
Climate Change is Affecting the Shape and Size of Amazon Birds
NOV 16, 2021
Climate Change is Affecting the Shape and Size of Amazon Birds
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse locations on Earth, home to more than 3 million different species. I ...
DEC 06, 2021
Health & Medicine
University of Washington studies potential health risks of working in the cannabis industry
DEC 06, 2021
University of Washington studies potential health risks of working in the cannabis industry
As the cannabis industry expands, workers are reporting health concerns associated with working in a cultivation center ...
DEC 21, 2021
Plants & Animals
Deep Under Ice in the Antarctic, Life Lurks
DEC 21, 2021
Deep Under Ice in the Antarctic, Life Lurks
Scientists were surprised to find an area deep underneath Antarctica's ice shelves teeming with life. Researchers have r ...
DEC 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
220,000-Year-Old Mammoth Bonebed Discovered in the UK
DEC 23, 2021
220,000-Year-Old Mammoth Bonebed Discovered in the UK
With good fortune and proper oversite by paleontologists, breakthrough discoveries can be made to shine a light on the l ...
DEC 24, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Nitrogen supply impacts on cannabinoid and terpenoid levels
DEC 24, 2021
Nitrogen supply impacts on cannabinoid and terpenoid levels
 A recent study of the impact of nitrogen supply on cannabinoids and terpenoid levels identified the optimal level ...
DEC 26, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Symbiotes Spark the Production of Psychedelics in These Flowers
DEC 26, 2021
Symbiotes Spark the Production of Psychedelics in These Flowers
Morning glory is a name for about 1,000 flowers that are in the Convolvulaceae family, and many produce ergot alkaloids.
Loading Comments...