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Jeffrey S.

Assistant Regional Director
Animal Damage Control
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Philip S. Gipson
Unit Leader
Kansas Cooperative Fish and
Wildlife Research Unit
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas 66506-3501

Fig. 1. Feral dog, Canis familiaris

Damage Prevention and Toxicants Other Methods

Control Methods Sodium cyanide in M-44 ejector Eliminate food supplies.
Destroy dens.
Catch poles.
Net wire fences. None are registered.
Jab sticks.
Electric fences. Trapping
Cultural Considerations
Frightening Live traps.
Public education.
Yard lights, effigies, pyrotechnics. No. 3 or 4 steel leghold traps.
Dog control laws.
Electronic Guard. Cable neck snares.
Professional carnivore damage control
Livestock guarding animals. Shooting specialists.
Repellents Hunting from the air.
Several products are registered but are Hunting from the ground.
practical only for small areas.
Capsaicin and anise oil may protect
humans from attack by dogs.


Cooperative Extension Division
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
United States Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Animal Damage Control C-77
Great Plains Agricultural Council
Wildlife Committee
Identification have rendezvous sites like wolves. in remote sites where they feed on
Travel routes to and from the gather- wildlife and native fruits. The only
In appearance, most feral dogs (Fig. 1) ing or den sites may be well defined. areas that do not appear to be suitable
are difficult, if not impossible, to dis- Food scraps and other evidence of con- for feral dogs are places where food
tinguish from domestic dogs. Like centrated activity may be observed at and escape cover are not available, or
domestic dogs, feral dogs (sometimes gathering sites. where large native carnivores, particu-
referred to as wild or free-ranging larly wolves, are common and prey on
The appearance of tracks left by feral
dogs) manifest themselves in a variety dogs.
dogs varies with the size and weight of
of shapes, sizes, colors, and even the animal. Generally, dog tracks are
breeds. McKnight (1964) noted Ger- rounder and show more prominent Food Habits
man shepherds, Doberman pinschers, nail marks than those of coyotes, and
and collies as breeds that often become they are usually larger than those of Like coyotes, feral dogs have catholic
feral. Most feral dogs today are foxes. Since a pack of feral dogs likely diets and are best described as oppor-
descendants of domestic dogs gone consists of animals in a variety of sizes tunistic feeders. They can be efficient
wild, and they often appear similar to and shapes, the tracks from a pack of predators, preying on small and large
dog breeds that are locally common. dogs will be correspondingly varied, animals, including domestic livestock.
The primary feature that distinguishes unlike the tracks of a group of coyotes. Many rely on carrion, particularly
feral from domestic dogs is the degree The publication by Acorn and road-killed animals, crippled water-
of reliance or dependence on humans, Dorrance (1990) contains a compara- fowl, green vegetation, berries and
and in some respect, their behavior tive illustration of canid tracks. other fruits, and refuse at garbage
toward people. Feral dogs survive and dumps.
reproduce independently of human Range
intervention or assistance. While it is
true that some feral dogs use human Feral dogs are the most widespread of General Biology,
garbage for food, others acquire their the wild canids. They may occur Reproduction, and
primary subsistence by hunting and wherever people are present and per- Behavior
scavenging like other wild canids. mit dogs to roam free or where people
abandon unwanted dogs. Feral dogs Feral dogs are highly adaptable, social
Feral and domestic dogs often differ
probably occur in all of the 50 states, carnivores. Most are about the size of a
markedly in their behavior toward
Canada, and Central and South coyote or slightly larger. Many breeds
people. Scott and Causey (1973) based
America. They are also common in of dogs are capable of existing in the
their classification of these two types
Europe, Australia, Africa, and on wild, but after a few generations of
by observing the behavior of dogs
several remote ocean islands, such as uncontrolled breeding, a generalized
while confined in cage traps. Domestic
the Galapagos. mongrel tends to develop. Often it has
dogs usually wagged their tails or
exhibited a calm disposition when a Home ranges of feral dogs vary con- a German shepherd or husky-like
human approached, whereas most siderably in size and are probably appearance. Feral dogs on the
feral dogs showed highly aggressive influenced by the availability of food. Galapagos Islands resemble the origi-
behavior, growling, barking, and Dog packs that are primarily depen- nal introduced breeds: hounds,
attempting to bite. Some dogs were dent on garbage may remain in the pointers, and Borzoi.
intermediate in their behavior and immediate vicinity of a dump, while Gipson (1983) suggested that family
couldnt be classified as either feral or other packs that depend on livestock groups of feral dogs are more highly
domestic based soley on their reaction or wild game may forage over an area organized than previously believed.
to humans. Since many feral dogs have of 50 square miles (130 km2) or more. Pup rearing may be shared by several
been pursued, shot at, or trapped by members of a pack. Survival of pups
people, their aggressive behavior born during autumn and winter has
toward humans is not surprising. Habitat
been documented, even in areas with
Gipson (1983) described the numerous harsh winter weather. Gipson found
lead pellets imbedded under the skin Feral dogs are often found in forested
areas or shrublands in the vicinity of that only one female in a pack of feral
of a feral dog caught in Arkansas as a dogs studied in Alaska gave birth dur-
testament to its relationship with human habitation. Some people will
not tolerate feral dogs in close proxim- ing two years of study, even though
people. other adult females were present in the
ity to human activity; thus they take
Feral dogs are usually secretive and considerable effort to eliminate feral pack. The breeding female gave birth
wary of people. Thus, they are active dogs in such areas. Feral dogs may be during late September or early October
during dawn, dusk, and at night much found on lands where human access is during both years. It is noteworthy
like other wild canids. They often limited, such as military reservations that all pups from both litters had
travel in packs or groups and may and large airports. They may also live similar color markings, suggesting that

the pups had the same father. Adult When domestic dogs attack domestic Legal Status
males of different colors were present animals, they may injure or kill sev-
in the pack. eral, but they seldom consume their State and local laws concerning feral
victims. Rather, they leave the impres- and free-ranging dogs vary consider-
Nesbitt (1975) commented on the rigid
sion that they were involved in vicious ably, but most states have some regu-
social organization of a pack of feral
play rather than an attempt to obtain lations. Many states, particularly those
dogs where nonresident dogs were
food. The most diagnostic characteris- in the west, permit individuals to
excluded, including females in estrus.
tic of injuries caused by dogs is usually shoot dogs that are chasing or killing
In one instance, Nesbitt used three
the slashing and biting of prey animals game animals or livestock. State agen-
separate female dogs in estrus as bait
over much of their bodies. Wade and cies or agriculture departments usually
(dogs were chained in the back of a
Bowns (1983) and Acorn and Dorrance are responsible for controlling feral
corral-type trap) over a 59-day period
(1990) present a detailed pictorial and dogs in rural areas. No states consider
and captured no feral dogs. He then
descriptive aid to identifying preda- feral dogs to be game animals. Most
baited the same trap with carrion, and
tors that damage livestock. cities have animal control agents to
a pack of feral dogs, including four
adult males, entered the trap within Feral dogs may become skilled at pick up abandoned and free-ranging
1 week. hunting in groups for small game such domestic dogs.
as rabbits and hares and large game
Hybridization between feral dogs and
including deer and even moose. Some Damage Prevention and
other wild canids can occur, but non-
wildlife managers feel that feral dogs
synchronous estrus periods and pack Control Methods
are a serious threat to deer, especially
behavior (that is, excluding nonresi-
in areas with heavy snows (Lowry
dent canids from membership in the Exclusion
1978). Others have found no evidence
pack) may preclude much interbreed-
that feral dogs pose a significant threat Protect livestock and poultry from
to deer (Causey and Cude 1980). feral and domestic dogs with well-
Dens may be burrows dug in the Clearly, the impact of feral dogs, both maintained net fences. Horizontal
ground or sheltered spots under aban- on livestock and wildlife, varies by spacing of the mesh should be less
doned buildings or farm machinery. location and is influenced by factors than 6 inches (15 cm); vertical spacing
Feral dogs commonly use former fox such as availability of other food, the should be less than 4 inches (10 cm).
or coyote dens. number of dogs, and competition by Barbed wire at ground level or a bur-
other predators. ied wire apron will discourage dogs
from digging under the fence. The
Damage and Damage Feral dogs may feed on fruit crops
including melons, berries, and grapes, fence should be about 6 feet (1.8 m)
Identification high to hinder animals from jumping
and native fruits such as persimmons
and blackberries. Damage to melons is over. The effectiveness of fences can be
Livestock and poultry can be victims increased by adding one or more elec-
similar to that caused by coyotes. The
of harassment, injury, and death from trically charged wires along the bot-
side of a ripe melon is usually bitten
both domestic and feral dogs. Distin- tom and top. Charged wires are
open and the insides eaten.
guishing between livestock killed by positioned so that the intruding dog
domestic or feral dogs and that killed Feral dogs commonly kill house cats, encounters them before digging under
by coyotes may be difficult since the and they may injure or kill domestic or climbing over the fence.
mode of attack can be similar. Coyotes dogs. In areas where people have not
usually attack an animal at the throat; hunted and trapped feral dogs, the Electric fences consisting of up to 12
domestic dogs are relatively indis- dogs may not have developed fear of alternating ground and charged wires
criminate in how and where they humans, and in those instances such have been effective at deterring dogs
attack. Sometimes, however, dogs kill dogs may attack people, especially (Dorrance and Bourne 1980). Other
the way coyotes do, and young and children. This can be a serious problem configurations have also been success-
inexperienced coyotes may attack any in areas where feral dogs feed at and ful (Shelton 1984, deCalesta 1983).
part of the body of their prey as dogs live around garbage dumps near hu- Electric fences must be checked regu-
would. The survival of feral dogs, man dwellings. Such situations occur larly to ensure that the wires are suffi-
much like that of other wild canids, most frequently around small remote ciently charged. Maintenance of fences
depends on their ability to secure food. towns. may be difficult in areas with drifting
Therefore feral dogs are usually adept snow and where large wild animals
On the Galapagos Islands, feral dogs are common. Moose and bears can be
predators. Unlike most domestic dogs,
have significantly impacted native particularly destructive to electric
feral dogs rely on their prey for food,
populations of tortoises, iguanas, and fences.
and thus consume much of what they
kill. Feral dogs favor the hindquarters Fencing is one of the most beneficial
and viscera (liver, spleen, heart, lungs). investments in dealing with predator

damage and livestock management if gicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Shooting
practicality warrants its use. Section 3 registration for sodium cya-
Aerial shooting is one of the most effi-
nide used in M-44 delivery devices.
cient control techniques available for
Frightening Although the product label for M-44
killing feral dogs. Where a pack of
Several visual and auditory devices cyanide capsules lists wild dogs
damaging feral dogs is established, it
(yard lights, effigies, loud music, pyro- among the canids that can be con-
may be worthwhile to trap one or two
technics) have been used to frighten trolled when they are preying on live-
members of the pack, fit them with
coyotes from livestock pens and pas- stock (others include coyotes and red
radio transmitters, and release them.
tures, and are likely to be effective and gray foxes), ADC policy prohibits
Feral dogs are highly social, and by
with feral dogs. using M-44s for specifically killing
periodically locating the radio-tagged
dogs. Some dogs are killed by M-44s
dogs with a radio receiver, it is pos-
Researchers at the Denver Wildlife when they are being used to kill coy-
sible to locate other members of the
Research Center developed and tested otes, but dogs are not the target ani-
group. When other members of the
a device called the Electronic Guard, a mal. In addition, at least one state has
pack are destroyed, the radioed dogs
combination strobe light and siren that a law prohibiting ADC from using
can be located and shot. This tech-
periodically activates during the night. M-44s to intentionally kill dogs.
nique has been used effectively by the
The noise and light have been effective
Several states hold their own registra- Alaska Department of Fish and Game
in reducing coyote predation on flocks
tions for using M-44s, and their policy to eliminate packs of problem wolves.
of sheep. Similar results could reason-
ably be anticipated with feral dogs. with regard to feral dogs may be dif-
Hunting from the ground has been
ferent from that of ADC. Consult state
used to control feral dogs. A predator
Guarding dogs that have been reared and local regulations with respect to
call may lure dogs within rifle range.
with livestock and trained to remain M-44 use. In all instances, M-44s can
Establishing a shooting blind can be
with them can be a deterrent to depre- only be used by certified applicators.
helpful, especially along a trail used by
dating feral dogs (Green and Wood-
Toxic collars containing Compound dogs, near a den, a garbage dump, or a
ruff 1991). Since a pack of feral dogs is
1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) large animal carcass.
quite capable of killing other dogs,
more than one guarding dog may be placed on domestic animals may kill
depredating dogs if the dogs puncture Other Methods
needed where feral dogs are a threat.
Donkeys and llamas have also been the collar during an attack. The collars, Fencing garbage dumps, burying
used to keep dogs away from live- however, are only registered for use garbage in sanitary landfills fre-
stock. against coyotes. quently, or removing livestock carrion
may help reduce local feral dog popu-
Repellents lations. Locating and destroying dens,
No fumigants are registered for the especially when pups are present, may
Methyl nonyl ketone, mostly in granu-
control of feral dogs. also be helpful. Use catch poles to cap-
lar form or in liquid sprays, is widely
ture and restrain feral dogs. Dart guns
used to prevent urination or defecation
Trapping and jab sticks can be used to adminis-
by dogs in yards and storage areas.
ter tranquilizing or euthanizing agents.
Several other chemicals are registered Live traps are generally effective in
for repelling dogs including anise oil, capturing feral dog pups and occasion-
Bitrex, capsaicin, d-linonene, dried ally adult dogs. Steel leghold traps Cultural Considerations
blood, essential oils, napthalene, (No. 3 or 4) are convenient and effec-
The long-term solution to most prob-
nicotene, Ropel, Thiram, Thymol, and tive for trapping wild dogs. Carrion
lems caused by unconfined dogs,
tobacco dust. These chemicals may be and scent baits used to lure coyotes to
including feral dogs, is responsible dog
useful in keeping feral dogs from es- traps may be effective in attracting
ownership and effective local dog
tablishing scent stations or relieving feral dogs. Nontarget species or pets
management programs. Many depre-
themselves on selected sites, but they inadvertently captured can be
dation problems can be solved by
probably have little value in protecting released. Caution should be exercised
confining dogs to kennels or to the
livestock or poultry. Capsaicin (oleo- when approaching a dog in a trap,
owners property. Dog breeding must
resin of capsicum) and oil of anise may since feral dogs may be vicious when
be controlled. Unwanted dogs should
be effective in protecting humans from confined, and even pet dogs may bite
be placed for adoption or destroyed
attack by dogs. under those circumstances. Cable neck
rather than abandoned, since the latter
snares may be set at openings in fences
leads to the formation of free-living,
or along narrow trails used by dogs.
feral populations.
There are no toxicants widely used for Use care when setting snares because
controlling feral dogs in the United they may kill pets or livestock that are Dog management programs should
States. The USDA-APHIS-ADC pro- caught. include the following: (1) public educa-
gram holds a Federal Insecticide, Fun-

tion about proper care and confine- Linhart, S. B., G. J. Dasch, R. R. Johnson, J. D.
Acknowledgments Roberts, and C. J. Packham. 1992. Electronic
ment of dogs; (2) laws that identify
frightening devices for reducing coyote
that dog owners are legally responsible Figure 1 drawn by Rene Lanik, University of predation on domestic sheep: efficacy under
for damage caused by dogs; (3) laws Nebraska-Lincoln. range conditions and operational use. Proc.
that prohibit abandonment of Vertebr. Pest Conf. 15:386-392.
unwanted dogs and require humane
For Additional
Lowry, D. A. 1978. Domestic dogs as predators
disposal of unwanted dogs; (4) holding Information on deer. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 6:38-39.
facilities and personnel trained to McKnight, T. 1964. Feral livestock in Anglo-
handle unwanted or nuisance dogs; Acorn, R. C., and M. J. Dorrance. 1990. Methods America. Univ. Calif. Publ. Geogr., Vol. 16.
of investigating predation of livestock. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley.
and (5) assistance by professional Alberta Agric. Agdex 684-14. Edmonton,
control specialists where feral dogs are Alberta, Canada. Nesbitt, W. H. 1975. Ecology of a feral dog pack
established. on a wildlife refuge. Pages 391-396 in M. W.
Barnett, B. D. 1986. Eradication and control of Fox, ed. The wild canids. Van Nostrand
feral and free-ranging dogs in the Galapagos Reinhold Co., New York.
Economics of Damage Islands. Proc. Vertebr. Pest Conf. 12:359-368.
Nesse, C. E., W. M. Longhurst, and W. E.
and Control Boggess, E. K., R. D. Andrews, and R. A. Bishop. Howard. 1976. Predation and the sheep
1978. Domestic animal losses to coyotes and industry in California 1972-1974. Univ.
dogs in Iowa. J. Wildl. Manage. 42:362-372. Calif., Div. Agric. Sci. Bull. 1878. 63 pp.
Feral dogs may destroy livestock and
poultry valued at thousands of dollars. Causey, M. K., and C. A. Cude. 1980. Feral dog Scott, M. D., and K. Causey. 1973. Ecology of
and white-tailed deer interactions in feral dogs in Alabama. J. Wildl. Manage.
In such instances, the costs of control- Alabama. J. Wildl. Manage. 44:481-484. 37:253-265.
ling dogs may be warranted. Boggess
deCalesta, D. S. 1983. Building an electric
and his co-workers (1978) examined Shelton, M. 1984. The use of conventional and
antipredator fence. Pacific Northwest Ext. electric fencing to reduce coyote predation
5,800 claims of domestic livestock lost Publ. 225:11. on sheep and goats. Tex. Agric. Exp. Stn. MP
to dogs and coyotes in Iowa between 1556:12.
Denny, R. N. 1974. The impact of uncontrolled
1960 and 1974. Dogs were considered dogs on wildlife and livestock. Trans. N.A. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 1979. Final
responsible for 49% of the reported Wildl. Nat. Resour. Conf. 39:257-291. environmental impact statement for the U.S.
sheep losses, 45% of the cattle losses, Fish and Wildlife Services mammalian
Dorrance, M. J., and J. Bourne. 1980. An
66% of the swine losses, and 82% of evaluation of anti-coyote electric fencing. J. predator damage management for livestock
the poultry losses. Denny (1974) con- Range Manage. 33:385-387. protection in the western United States. US
Dep. Inter. Washington, DC. 789 pp.
ducted a nationwide survey of state Gipson, P. S. 1983. Evaluations of behavior of
departments of agriculture, wildlife feral dogs in interior Alaska, with control Wade, D. A., and J. E. Bowns. 1983. Procedures
conservation agencies, and related implications. Vertebr. Pest Control Manage. for evaluating predation on livestock and
Mater. 4th Symp. Am. Soc. Testing Mater. wildlife. Bull. No. B-1429. Texas A & M
agencies to determine problems Univ., College Station. 42 pp.
caused by unconfined dogs. Damage
Gipson, P. S., and J. A. Sealander. 1977. Walton, M. T., and C. A. Field. 1989. Use of
to wildlife, especially deer, small
Ecological relationships of white-tailed deer donkeys to guard sheep and goats in Texas.
game, and birds was considered the Proc. Eastern Wildl. Damage Control Conf.
and dogs in Arkansas. Pages 3-16 in R. L.
primary problem caused by dogs. Phillips and C. Jonkel, eds. Proc. 1975 4:87-94.
Damage to game animals may be a Predator Symp. Montana For. Conserv.
serious local problem. In view of the Exper. Stn., Univ. Montana, Missoula.
268 pp.
value placed on game animals by
hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts, Green, J. S. 1989. Donkeys for predation control. Editors
local control to benefit wild game may Proc. Eastern Wildl. Damage Control Conf. Scott E. Hygnstrom
4:83-86. Robert M. Timm
be economically justified. The second
Gary E. Larson
most serious problem reported was Green, J. S., and R. A. Woodruff. 1991. Livestock
guarding dogs: protecting sheep from
damage to livestock.
predators. US Dep. Agric., Agric. Info. Bull.
No. 588. 31 pp.