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Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, India

Abstract

In human-populated landscapes worldwide, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore. Although dogs have been used for the protection of livestock from wild carnivores, they have also been implicated as predators of livestock. We used a combination of methods (field surveys, interview surveys, and data from secondary sources) to examine the patterns and factors driving livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs, as well as economic losses to local communities in a Trans-Himalayan agro-pastoralist landscape in India. Our results show that livestock abundance was a better predictor of depredation in the villages than local dog abundance. Dogs mainly killed small-bodied livestock and sheep were the most selected prey. Dogs were responsible for the majority of livestock losses, with losses being comparable to that by snow leopards. This high level of conflict may disrupt community benefits from conservation programs and potentially undermine the conservation efforts in the region through a range of cascading effects.

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Map Courtesy: Ecoinformatics Centre, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment and Nature Conservation Foundation

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Acknowledgements

Financial support for this study was provided through the International Foundation for Science grant to CH. We would like to thank the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, particularly the Divisional Forest Officer, Kaza, Shri Rajesh Sharma and Range Officer, Kaza, Shri Devender Singh Chauhan for their logistic support. We would like to thank the Animal Husbandry Department, Kaza, for facilitating secondary data collection. CH would like to thank Charudutt Mishra, NCF for helping in conceptualizing the paper and Ajay Bijoor, NCF for overall logistic support in field. We thank Maria Thaker for providing useful comments on the manuscript. We are thankful to the entire NCF field crew in Kibber: Chunit Kesang, Tanzin Thinley, Tanzin Thuktan, Rinchen Tobgye, Lobzang Gyalson, Kalzang Gurmet, Chudim Dorje, Sherup, Lama Tenzing, Tashi Gonpo, Takpa Tanzin, field crew from Lalung village, and the reserve guards of Chicham and Lossar village for immense support during fieldwork. We would like to thank the respondents and herders for their support and participation in data collection. Finally, we thank the three anonymous reviewers whose suggestions have improved the quality of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Chandrima Home.

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Home, C., Pal, R., Sharma, R.K. et al. Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, India. Ambio 46, 655–666 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0858-6

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Keywords

  • Canis lupus familiaris
  • Economic loss
  • High-altitude desert
  • Human–animal conflict
  • Human-subsidized carnivore