Thursday, October 13, 2011

No dogs allowed? Is there scientific reason for that?? Allowing our furry buddies in America’s national parks.

Have you ever wanted to bring your sweet little dog on a road or camping trip, to only have the man bring you down with his regulations? Your canine pal may have less to do with lower species abundance and richness in America’s protected areas than you do.

In a study by Reed and Merenlender, human activities in the protected areas of California are actually the principle cause of these of native carnivore disturbance, rather than their dogs. Regulations are in place such that dogs are to be restricted in our national protected areas for fear that they might be vectors for disease, predation, or competition. They compared three different types of parks that allowed dogs on leash, off leash, or were not allowed.

When compared with each other, it was found that no matter which regulations were in place, there was no effect of dog presence/absence on the native carnivore populations. What was found was that in areas that excluded all human activity no matter how minimal the activity was, the native carnivores were much more effective and diverse. This was due to native predators general avoidance of cleared areas such as roads, campsites, and well-used trails.

So, when deciding what laws should be enforced regarding land use, we should not be discriminatory to our four-legged fidos. We less cute humans should accept that our activities are responsible for any decline in native faunal function not just pin it on certain behaviors of pets. Dogs are just along for the ride; we have the power to create areas that can be more accommodating to native fauna, as well as Scooby.

REED, S. E. and MERENLENDER, A. M. (2011), Effects of Management of Domestic Dogs and Recreation on Carnivores in Protected Areas in Northern California. Conservation Biology, 25: 504–513. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01641.x

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