Southern Pudu

Chile's tiniest deer species ... 'Going to the Dogs'

Southern PuduFree-ranging domestic dogs can wreak havoc with local wildlife through harassment. In southern Chile, a study by Drs. Eduardo Silva-Rodriguez and Kathryn Sieving (DWEC) showed the extent to which un-restrained dogs near human settlements restrict the range of the world's tiniest deer species - the Southern Pudu.

Not much bigger than a well-fed beagle, the pudu is at an obvious size disadvantage in the face of free-ranging canines looking for trouble.

The study determined, through camera trapping in areas near and far from settlements where domestic dogs are fed by people, that where dogs are abundant, pudu are not. Moreover, it is clear that the restriction in range of pudu results from a combination of lethal impacts (dogs killing pudu) and pudu avoidance of areas with dog activity. Data underlying the study's conclusions are comprised of 1) photos of dogs and pudu from a large grid of automated cameras encompassing thousands of hectares of south temperate rainforest lands within and outside of human settlements, 2) observations by researchers and dog owners of dog attacks on live pudu (both successful and unsuccessful), and 3) observations of dead pudu obviously killed by dogs.

Camera Trap PhotosAn increasing body of literature underscores the importance of non-lethal effects of predators like dogs on prey species. Dogs can (like other predators) harass prey without killing them and these interactions will raise the level of fear and wariness in prey, causing behavioral restrictions in range via reduced use of critical micro- and macro-habitats by fearful prey. Ultimately, both lethal and non-lethal effects of predators on prey reduce prey populations and viability.

Given that the global population of domestic dogs is past 500 million, and many of these animals spend all or part-time off-leash, dog encounters with wild species are frequent and rapidly becoming recognized as one of the top threats to biodiversity conservation worldwide.

Protect the tiny pudu and other native prey - don't let the dogs out!

Press Links

Original Paper

Eduardo A. Silva-Rodríguez and Kathryn E. Sieving, "Domestic dogs shape the landscape-scale distribution of a threatened forest ungulate," Biological Conservation 150 (2012): 103-110.DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.03.008.

Further Reading

John W. Laundre, "Behavioral response races, predator-prey shell games, ecology of fear, and patch use of pumas and their ungulate prey," Ecology 91 (2010): 2995-3007.

Julie K. Young, Kirk A. Olson, Richard P. Reading, Sukh Amgalanbaatar and Joel Berger. "Is wildlife going to the dogs? Impacts of feral and free-roaming dogs on wildlife populations," BioScience 61 (2011): 125-132.