Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Method to Estimate Stray Dog Numbers

Wildlife biologists in Mumbai, India, have come up with a time-effective method to count stray dogs, which avoids the need to artificially mark or even catch the strays thus reducing stress to the animals and the risk of bites to the handlers (report here). It uses the fact that many dogs have unique markings that allow them to be individually recognised. As some dogs are relatively unmarked and hard to identify individually then a proportion of the population is counted as “unmarked” and a statistical technique used to arrive at an overall estimate that can help in monitoring dog management strategies. This is an adaptation of the standard “mark-recapture” technique commonly used to estimate wild animal populations (now called “mark-resight”).

One problem with the method is that many dogs are only part-time strays spending much of their time in their owner’s home which can skew the results but anything that highlights this part of the overall stray dog problem is good in my view.

On the other hand, another benefit with this technique is that it avoids the common conflicts with local residents some of whom do not like seeing “their” local street dogs caught whilst others do not understand why the dogs have to be released again after being caught. Photographing the dogs generally does not raise the hackles of either side.

Learn more about the lives and issue of unowned dogs in my e-book ”A Stray View” available from Bangkok Books (readable as .pdf on any computer)

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