Dogs putting 200 animal species at risk in ‘major threat’ to wildlife, scientists warn

Estimated 1 billion dogs live around world, with growing concern at rising numbers of feral and free-range canines

Wednesday 13 February 2019 18:02 GMT
Good boys... or threat to vulnerable species?
Good boys... or threat to vulnerable species? (Getty)

“Man’s best friend” they may be. But for wildlife, the domestication and proliferation of dogs has had a disastrous impact.

Following rats and cats, dogs are now the third worst human-introduced predator in some parts of the world.

There are an estimated 1 billion dogs living around the globe, and they are now believed to threaten almost 200 species worldwide, including some critically endangered animals, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Conservationists are particularly concerned about the rising number of feral or “free-ranging” dogs living in some regions.

Eduardo Silva-Rodriguez, author of a study in Chile which examined the patterns in the abundance of stray dogs in relation to human demography, told the BBC: "Predation and harassment by dogs has 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.”

His research From Pets to Strays, suggested an “urgent” response was required to curb the impacts of feral dogs.

The IUCN estimates of the 200 species at risk from free-ranging and feral dogs, 30 are critically endangered, 71 are endangered, and a further 81 are listed as vulnerable.

Nearly half of these species are mammals, 78 of them are birds, 22 reptiles and three amphibians, the BBC reports.

As well as being a direct threat to animals by hunting them, dogs are also carriers of disease, can have significant impacts on fragile ecosystems, can compete with other vulnerable animals for prey, and in the case of wolves, can interbreed with them, threatening the longevity and integrity of the wolf population.

Dealing with the problem is also a thorny issue, with culls said to be inefficient as dogs simply move to areas where there is less competition for resources.

Instead, conservationists are urging people to help reduce the dog population through more careful breeding management, and to maintain animals’ health with comprehensive vaccination programmes.

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