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Webinar – Off-Leash Dogs, Natural Areas, and Wildlife

August 18 @ 18:30 19:30 MDT

Dogs off-leash in natural areas is a topic it seems most people have an opinion on. People make many assumptions about how off-leash dogs impact wildlife and their habitats, but what does the research say? Some organizations have started distributing fact sheets and other statements encouraging people to keep their dogs on-leash. Join us as we explore the latest scientific research that describes the impact of dogs off-leash on wildlife and the compliance of dog-owners to keep their pets leashed.

This webinar features an international slate of speakers from Calgary, Chicago, and even Victoria, Australia. The management challenge of dogs off-leash is global and we’re excited to discuss this topic from regional to international contexts.

All of our webinars are free to attend, but donations are much appreciated!

Webinar registration is not required, simply click on the link below to join.

Speakers and Abstracts

Nicole Kahal – Conservation Analyst

Miistakis Institute, Calgary, AB

Title: Urban wildlife and dogs: how our park use may be impacting wildlife behaviour

Abstract: The Miistakis Institute has been monitoring urban wildlife in Calgary through the Calgary Captured program, which utilizes camera traps located in urban parks and ecological corridors to better understand urban wildlife and how they move through the city. The first three years of data collected provide insights to how wildlife adjust their behaviour and park use in response to the presence of people and their dogs.  The Calgary Captured program is in partnership with the City of Calgary, Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society and Alberta Environment and Parks.

Biosketch: Nicole is a Conservation Analyst for the Miistakis Institute, where she focuses on urban biodiversity, ecological connectivity, and ecosystem-based climate.  She earned a Master of Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Water Resource Economics from the University of Arizona.

Arielle Parsons – Research Scientist

Alexander Centre for Population Biology, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

Title: The ecological impact of dogs on wildlife in eastern North America

Abstract: The establishment of protected areas is a key strategy for preserving biodiversity. However, human use of protected areas can cause disturbance to wildlife, especially in areas that allow hunting and if humans are accompanied by dogs (Canis familiaris). We used citizen-science run camera traps to investigate how humans, dogs and coyotes (Canis latrans) used 33 protected areas and analyzed behavioral responses by three prey species: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and northern raccoon (Procyon lotor). We obtained 52,863 detections of native wildlife, 162,418 detections of humans and 23,332 detections of dogs over 42,874 camera nights. Most dogs (99%) were on the trail, and 89% of off-trail dogs were accompanied by humans. Prey avoided dogs, humans and coyotes temporally, but did not avoid them spatially, or greatly increase vigilance. Our results indicate that humans are perceived as a greater risk than coyotes, and this increases when dogs accompany their owners. The concentration of dogs on the trail with their owners, and relatively minor behavioral impacts on prey, contrasts the strong negative ecological effects found in studies of free-ranging dogs. We found dog management to be effective: prohibiting dogs in protected areas reduced their use of an area by a factor of 10 and leash laws increased leashing rates by 21%. Although millions of dogs use natural areas in North America each year, regulations enacted by protected areas combined with responsible management of dog behavior greatly reduce the ecological impact of man’s best friend. 

Biosketch: Arielle is a quantitative ecologist and population biologist with the Lincoln Park Zoo Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology.  Arielle’s research examines factors influencing wildlife population demographics, dynamics, distribution, movement and interspecific interactions using cutting-edge quantitative and field methods. Arielle is particularly interested in addressing applied questions related to population persistence and dynamics, predator-prey and competitive interactions, habitat selection and disease ecology, particularly in the face of anthropogenic change. 

Lily van Eeden, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, Victoria, Australia

Title: Dog owners’ leashing behaviour in different kinds of natural areas.

Abstract: Encouraging compliance with dog leashing regulations in natural areas is a priority for land managers seeking to protect wildlife, but most of what we know comes from studies in coastal areas. We surveyed residents of Victoria, Australia, to document self-reported leashing behaviour by dog owners in different habitat types, exploring demographic, attitudinal, and belief variables as predictors of compliance. We found support for leashing regulations among dog owners (n = 313) and those without dogs (n = 711), but generally low reported compliance by owners. Social norms about leashing predicted leashing at all areas, and habits (i.e., leashing where leashing was not regulated) predicted compliance with regulations. Older age and beliefs about wildlife protection predicted compliance in water-based areas (e.g., beaches, wetlands) and beliefs that off-leash roaming is beneficial to dogs predicted compliance in other natural areas (e.g., hiking trails). Exploring these context-based differences allows managers to identify and understand target groups to design tailored messaging and other behaviour change interventions.

Biosketch: Dr Lily van Eeden is a postdoctoral research fellow based in state government in Victoria, Australia. Her research looks at how people engage with and care for nature, seeking to promote positive human-nature relationships and behaviours that benefit conservation. Her PhD explored the human dimensions of conflict with wildlife, particularly between livestock producers and dingoes.

PO BOX 4990
Edmonton AB
T6E 5G8

Professional refers to someone who works with wildlife and/or their habitats in a professional setting.

In this context, it is not in reference to a legal professional designation.

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