Conservation Questions

Dogs are celebrated as man’s best friend, yet we hate and persecute their wild relatives, coyotes and wolves. Why is that? Wild dogs are often seen as a pest or worse, a ruthless monster. Yet when observers view them without this stigma, they see the soft, playful side of them, where occasionally they would play with a dog toy left in a yard they come across.

A recent article published in Aeon, A tale of three dogs, addresses the huge difference between how wild dogs are treated in comparison to our beloved domesticated companions even though “they have personalities, memories, love their pups, and are devoted to their packs. The advocacy group Project Coyote in northern California estimates that 500,000 coyotes are killed every year in the US, for sport, pleasure, or to increase deer populations.”

However, when they are killed and/ or persecuted, it disrupts the stability of the pack, causing increased conflicts with humans and their domestic animals. When wild dogs are left alone, they maintain stable populations by suppressing prey and small carnivore populations, while at the same time keeping a stable population themselves. Stable packs maintain a normal life in the wild, whereas when wild dogs are killed, it causes the pack to disband and spread into urban areas, closer to humans and their domestic pets, increasing conflicts with humans.

To mistreat wild relatives of our domesticated best friend, is a hypocritical moral example of how we treat our fellow human beings. As William Lynn argues “wolves are not just good for ecosystem health. They are critical to the moral health of a society”. Can we ever treat wild dogs as we treat our domestic companions, with respect?

Jessica Whalen

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