The source of generation of the feral dog develops in the urban environment, from abandonment, and is a consequence of the lack of social awareness. When they return to the natural environment, they undergo an adaptation and acquire characteristics of their ancestors, before the canids were domesticated. The impact on productive activities in the livestock sector are, among others, the main consequences of the actions of wild dogs, since there is a conversion of production from sheep to cattle to avoid large losses, without this representing a real solution.
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How is the problem of the existence of feral dogs observed by experts?
It is one of the maximum tensions that natural environment has. All-natural environments are subject to pressures, which can be natural or man-made. Of the latter, the most important in recent years have been the introduction of the beaver (as one colleague says: one of the most shocking phenomena since the last ice age, in terms of landscape), and recently everything that is urban development and what this implies for the environment. The dog is something relatively new but high impact on many levels, such that it can change over time what we know today as the wild or wild landscape of Fuegian, basically what is outside the city, which are the places where we access for recreation or tourism purposes, but also, impact on what is production.
A part of the province’s population lives in the countryside – beyond the fact that the greatest concentration is located in urban areas – there are many people who live in and in the countryside. For this portion of the population, the change is practically irreversible.
Likewise, it will have a strong impact on the rural lifestyle, because many ranchers are changing from sheep to cows, since the cow is larger and less vulnerable to attack by these dogs. But that is as long as there are no other things to attack; If all the fields took out their sheep and had cows, they would attack the cows. Today they find easier prey, such as chulengos, wild birds and lambs. Therefore, it is also significant for the sheep farming industry. Also, the fields were not designed to raise cows, the fences are made to raise sheep. So, it requires an investment that the rancher cannot afford, and furthermore, it would not be a solution since in the medium term, dogs will also attack cows. This shows how livestock is neglected by the State, around this issue.
What favorable biological characteristics do they have to adapt so quickly to a wild environment?
The domestic dog is an invention of man. Thousands of years ago there were two different ways of domestication; that of wolves on the one hand, and that of coyotes on the other, both are canines related to dogs. The man in this process realised that if he threw food at him, this wild animal would stay close to the man obtaining, as a benefit, an early warning against a potential danger, since these canids have much more open senses than we do. These animals began to be retained and thus the domestication process began, through a process known as “artificial selection”, which consisted that throughout many generations of offspring, they kept the animals that best served them for something, and rejecting those who do not. This is how you reach the dogs that exist today, and the different varieties –also achieved through selection– aimed at the function of the dog. Finally, a dog that depends on man is reached and lives in a state of complete childhood all his life.
When that dog has to fend for itself in a wild environment, things change. Those dogs that leave the city, or that people throw in the fields, they have to do as best they can and they are not doing very well. But if they have a calf, that calf is born in the wild and quickly transforms into a wild animal; it returns to developing individual and group behaviors that its ancestors had for thousands of years. They transform into feral dogs. That is, to attack in packs in a coordinated way, and unfortunately to produce great killings, not out of necessity but out of instinct. Currently feral dogs can kill by killing between 100 and 200 sheep per day, because it responds to the stimulus of the sheep escaping, the same also happens with wildlife.
What is mainly attributed to the existence of this problem?
Dr. A. S .: The main reason is population growth, and lack of awareness. There is a false thought that abandoning an animal in the field is doing it good because one leaves it in a natural environment. The reality is that many die trying, and some can prosper and have a great impact. But this is not seen, because after abandonment, people return home, they do not see it, they do not feel it and therefore they do not care.
But on the other hand, in the cities the notion persists that it is natural and okay to have loose dogs in the neighborhood. To such an extent that there is the idea of the “community dog”, unsupervised, which ends up being a problem since they attack postmen, garbage collectors, children and more.
Is there a way to control this?
What needs to be done is to reduce the impact on natural environments, both in production and in native fauna, without neglecting our safety. Imagining the worst scenario, it represents a potential danger for tourism in natural environments, in a province where alternative or unconventional activities are mainly promoted, in which of course there is trekking, among others. You come across a burrow with cubs, and the mother is going to attack you. There may be injuries if something is not done, in addition to the safety of rural workers who are not always prepared to face this.
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