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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

FERAL! It's not just cats.

My niece, Megan, recently asked me a very good question.
"We all see feral cats all the time.but have you ever come across literal feral dogs? If so how does that happen? That dogs become feral?
Yes, there are feral dogs. Here in the United States it's not as common as feral cats and their populations are a lot smaller.  Other countries have huge populations of feral dogs such as Russia, Brazil, India, and Africa to name a few. The populations in these countries are so huge that they are common in urban areas. Not just strays, but generations of unowned half wild animals that have never felt that human touch. Here in the US we also have feral dogs, however they tend to be in more rural areas.We also have government agencies, such as City and County Animal Services, that keep them in check. Loose dogs are one of the most frequent reported incidents to Animal Service Agencies. This helps prevent dogs from getting a chance to become feral.
Cats are harder to regulate than dogs, and they are harder to catch. Dogs also don't breed as prolifically as cats. Dogs only go into heat approx every 5-6 months, and there is a small window of opportunity for a female dog to get pregnant during her heat cycle. A cat goes into heat spring-time to fall and can have back to back litters 6 weeks after giving birth during this whole "season".

Most of the feral dogs are dogs who have managed to survive in typically rural settings. Some dogs start out as being dumped in the country. Others are dogs who have been pets of people in rural areas that leave them to run wild on their property. While the parents may remain domesticated, pups and future generations with no human contact or interaction become wild or feral.  Feral dogs are like coyotes. They are there, but you often don't see them. Their small "family" packs most often live undetected for years, allowing for future generations to be born. Or there is simply complacent on the part or the property or dog owner that they just don't care their dog have gone wild. Feral dogs are also have a higher death rate than feral cats. Dogs are more likely to be shot, hit by vehicles, killed by another animal such as coyotes, poisonous snakes, and other dogs. They are also more susceptible to disease, starvation and poisoning. The family packs are small, usually consisting of a mother dog and her pups, usually of various ages. The pups are the ones that would actually be considered true "feral" dogs.
We have actually had a couple of cases where we have gone out on calls for feral dog problems. One that I heard about was down in our delta. This is a huge rural farming area. On this particular property a worker from years back had left a female dog on the property when he left. The dog survived stealing food from the other pets and most likely killing rabbits and rodents. She became pregnant by owned male dogs in the area.  About 5 of the pups survived the first few months of life. The farm owner called to get the dogs removed. We set a trap and eventually caught the pups after several days. They were wild and scared. But they were young enough that they were able to be put into experienced foster homes and eventually adopted. Unfortunately mom was never caught.
Another case, very similar, also in the delta area. The difference was the pups were older. Much wilder and too fearful to be able to handle let along put into foster safely or adopt out. I think of of the 4 pups from the case only one was found to be calm and became friendly, allowing it to be fostered and adopted. The others had to be humanely euthanized for behavior. I think it was this case that the mother dog had another litter prior to this that were still running other parts of the property feral, the pups we caught were her youngest litter. 
Feral dogs aren't as big a nuisance problem that feral cats can be because of the regulation of dogs. But think of this. If Animal Service agencies were shut down. What would happen then? 

1 comment:

  1. It's so sad when any animal becomes feral. So sad that owners let it happen.thanks for the insight aunt michele