Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Ecological impact of free-ranging dogs in Poland

Wierzbowska, I. A., Hędrzak, M., Popczyk, B., Okarma, H., & Crooks, K. R. (2016). Predation of wildlife by free-ranging domestic dogs in Polish hunting grounds and potential competition with the grey wolf. Biological Conservation, 201, 1-9.

Although the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is a ubiquitous exotic predator that can detrimentally affect natural environments, studies on their ecological impact are relatively scarce, particularly at a national scale. We exploited data derived from Polish Hunting Association reports to provide a national evaluation of rural free-ranging dogs in Poland. Our results demonstrate that free-ranging dogs are widespread and abundant, frequently killing wildlife and livestock in Poland and likely exerting intraguild competition with native carnivores such as grey wolves (Canis lupus). On average, hunting club records estimate that over 138,000 rural free-ranging dogs occurred annually in hunting grounds. In addition, nearly 3000 free-ranging greyhounds and their mixed breeds occurred annually on hunting grounds, although greyhound hunting has been banned in Poland and they are legally required to be restrained within fencing. On average, over 33,000 wild animals and 280 livestock were killed by free-ranging dogs on Polish hunting grounds annually. The number of both wild animals and livestock killed by dogs were strongly and positively correlated with the numbers of rural free-ranging dogs recorded on hunting grounds, reflective of their predation pressure. Also, the number of wild animals killed by dogs was positively correlated with estimates of population sizes and harvest levels of wildlife, reflective of prey availability. Dog predation, in conjunction with harvest by humans, may cause unsustainable off-take rates of some game species. Grey wolves, documented within 39 of the 49 Hunting Districts, ate similar prey as dogs, including ungulates and livestock, and killed dogs on hunting grounds, suggesting both resource and interference competition between these sympatric canids. This comprehensive analysis provides important information about the ecological impact of free-ranging dogs and recommendations for alternative legislative and management measures to control their impacts.

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