Wolves and dogs

Submitted by Looduskalender EN on Tue, 22.10.2019 - 14:01
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Illustration: Wolf attacks on dogs (blue line)             Number of wolf packs (red line)

Source Animal of the Year Team
Estonian text posted 20.10.2019

 

The conflicts and contacts between wolves and dogs have been the subject of much media discussions this week. Although contrary meanings draw net clicks it is important to keep in mind that the conflicts between wolves and dogs are nothing new or unreasonable. This  is an annual phenomenon and a risk everywhere where dogs and their wild relatives may meet (in Estonia as elsewhere in the world). The causes of the conflicts are also well known and understandable too, another matter is if and who wants to recognize it. 

As a reminder here follows a brief summary :

Why do these wolves attack dogs?

On the Põltsamaa hunting grounds there is a problem with dog-killing wolves and a question has come up about what triggers such a situation? There are two reasons why wolves kill domestic dogs: 1. eliminating potential competitors; 2. need of food.

Young wolves who have recently inhabited a new territory tend to kill dogs for the first reason, seeing competitors in the dogs as near relatives. Older wolves in general respect dogs living in their area, having understood that the dogs live in their own small territories and do not really compete for the food base.

For the second reason, that is for the purpose of food, the wolves that attack dogs have been either such that have had to start an independent life earlier than normal (as a rule in connection with hunting) and are young creatures with inadequate skills in killing wildlife or old/injured/diseased individuals. We have been recording wolf attacks on dogs since 2003 onwards. Comparing the number of dogs attacked by wolves per year with the number of wolves (wolf packs) it is in no way possible to state that the  more numerous the wolves, the more attacks on dogs, rather the contrary. In the observation period (2003–2018) there was the greatest number of attacks on dogs in 2003–2004, when the number of wolves was the lowest in the period! Even later more dogs have been attacked with a low number of wolves (2013, 2018), rather than in the years of high wolf abundance ( 2008, 2011, 2015).

Although at the moment the possible links of dogs attacked with for instance the changes in the abundance of our unguents have not been analyzed there seems to be no direct connection at a first glance. So, for the moment  it remains for the reader to consider what it might depend on.

The bond of a human to a favourite domestic pet is as a rule clearly much stronger than his ties to livestock animals which makes it much harder to tolerate the loss of a dog. As a result  government institutions (Environment Agency  and Environmental Board)  have always looked on occasions of wolf attacks on dogs very seriously. Thus in areas where such problems have been known the hunting has been focused on elimination of the dog-killing wolves in the first place and likewise special permits have been granted outside the regular hunting period to hunt the killing individuals . Checking experiences from previous years this has worked quite well, that is, the killing of dogs has stopped.

Peep Männil, Marko Kübarsepp, Environment Agency

PS! Neither is the risk to grandmothers and children correlated  to the number of dogs or sheep killed by wolves

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