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Depredatory impact of free-roaming dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) on Mediterranean deer in southern Spain: implications for the human-wolf conflict.

Duarte, J and García, FJ and Fa, JE (2016) Depredatory impact of free-roaming dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) on Mediterranean deer in southern Spain: implications for the human-wolf conflict. Folia Zoologica, 65 (2). pp. 135-141. ISSN 1210-9681

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Abstract

Feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are efficient wild ungulate hunters in many parts of the world. This has not been confirmed in Mediterranean ecosystems. However, if feral dogs can predate upon wild Mediterranean ungulates, they can also do so upon livestock. Therefore, to more realistically understand human-wolf conflict in areas where wolves and feral dogs overlap, the possible role of the latter taking domestic prey should be considered. . During a 6-month study period, we carried out daily observations of a pack of medium-sized dogs, where they were the only large-bodied carnivore capable of killing ungulates, in a fenced estate in southern Spain. The estate contained sizeable populations of red deer, fallow deer and mouflons, but no livestock. We described feral dog predation patterns and depredatory impact. We found that dogs predated upon a total of 57 ungulates killed; fallow deer (47%) red deer (37%), and mouflon (16%). Red deer adults were the least frequent prey, but dogs killed significantly more females and fawns of red and fallow deer. Mouflons were attacked indistinctly. Our results suggest that dogs in our study exhibited a kill pattern similar to Iberian wolves. Therefore, in areas where wolves and feral dogs coexist, a significant proportion of livestock predation could be falsely attributed to the wild canid. In addition, the presence of feral dogs may be a cause of risk in big game hunting estates.

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