Forrest, A. & C.C. St. Clair. 2006. Effects of dog leash laws and habitat type on avian and small mammal communities in urban parks. Urban Ecosystems, 9:51–66
Remnant natural areas within urban settings can act as important refuges for wildlife, substantially increasing local biodiversity. However, habitat suitability for these species is potentially affected by human recreational activities including the presence of free-running dogs. To compare the diversity and abundance of songbird and small mammal communities between areas with bylaws that require, or do not require, dogs to be leashed, point counts and live-trapping surveys were conducted in three habitat types (deciduous, coniferous, and meadow) in the river valley parks of Edmonton, Alberta. Among birds, there was no difference between areas with different leashing bylaws in species diversity for any of the three habitat types. Similarly, there was no difference in bird diversity for a subset of species that were plausibly breeding at these sites. However, higher bird diversity was recorded in deciduous and coniferous sites than in meadow sites, regardless of leash designation, probably as a function of the horticultural practice of mowing meadows. Among both birds and small mammals, there was no difference in the abundance of individuals as a function of leashing bylaws. Our results suggest that off-leash dogs have no effect on the diversity or abundance of birds and small mammals in urban parks, but it is also possible that other factors, such as leash law compliance, reduced or obscured the effects of off-leash dogs in this study.