Comparison of effects of humans versus wildlife-detector dogs

Southwestern Naturalist
By: , and 



The use of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) trained to locate wildlife under natural conditions may increase the risk of attracting potential predators or alter behavior of target species. These potentially negative effects become even more problematic when dealing with threatened or endangered species, such as the Mojave Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). We addressed three concerns regarding use of dogs trained to locate desert tortoises in the wild. First, we looked at the potential for dogs to attract native and non-native predators to sites at a greater rate than with human visitation alone by comparing presence of predator sign before and after visitation by dogs and by humans. We found no significant difference in predator sign based upon type of surveyor. Second, we looked at the difference in risk of predation to desert tortoises that were located in the wild by humans versus humans with wildlife-detector dogs. Over a 5-week period, during which tortoises were extensively monitored and a subsequent period of 1 year during which tortoises were monitored monthly, there was no predation on, nor sign of predator-inflicted trauma to tortoises initially encountered either by humans or wildlife-detector dogs. Third, we looked at movement patterns of tortoises after encounter by either humans or wildlife-detector dogs. Movement of desert tortoises was not significantly different after being found by a human versus being found by a wildlife-detector dog. Based upon these initial results we conclude that use of trained wildlife-detector dogs to survey for desert tortoises in the wild does not appear to increase attraction of predators, increase risk of predation, or alter movement patterns of desert tortoises more than surveys conducted by humans alone.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparison of effects of humans versus wildlife-detector dogs
Series title Southwestern Naturalist
DOI 10.1894/PAS-03.1
Volume 53
Issue 4
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Southwestern Association of Naturalists
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 8 p.
First page 472
Last page 479
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details