|In Australia, its usually dogs chasing bears rather than bears chasing dogs that necessitates on-leash walking in some areas.|
One thing Australian dog owners don’t need to worry about is encounters with large carnivores like wolves, brown bears or polar bears. Sure, we do have to contend with the world’s most venomous snakes and paralysis ticks, but spare a thought for our friends in the Northern Hemisphere.
A paper released this week found that human behaviour can trigger large carnivore attacks – and one of the risk-increasing human behaviours is off-leash dog walking in carnivore habitat.
The paper found that large carnivore attacks have increased significantly in number, probably due to the very large increase in visitors to large carnivore habitat, as well as other factors like climate change. For example, conflicts with polar bears have risen over the last ten years because of increased tourism, increased oil and gas development on the Arctic coastline and reduction of ice volume.
Attacks are still very rare. Humans are more likely to suffer injuries including fatalities from encounters with less-feared animals (mosquitoes, bees, spiders, snails, snakes and large herbivores).
Large carnivores were more likely to attack if they were looking after their young; if they were surprised; wounded; protecting food; seeking out food from humans or if they were chased by a dog. Human behaviours such as leaving human offspring unattended or jogging alone at twilight in the vicinity of large carnivores increased the risks.
According to the authors, “Unleashed dogs can exacerbate the probability of a large carnivore attack, because a dog that runs away from a large carnivore towards the owner can trigger a dangerous situation where the carnivore chases it. When dogs are involved, large carnivores usually focused their attention on the dog rather than on the person.”
So, to our friends in the North, if you are walking your dog in an area frequented or lived in by large carnivores, keeping your dog on a leash is recommended. Its probably also wise to walk in a group. Off-leash time is important, but requires a safe location.
PenterianiVincenzo, Delgado María del Mar, Pinchera Francesco, Naves Javier, Fernández-GilAlberto, Kojola Ilpo, Härkönen Sauli, Norberg Harri, Frank Jens, Fedriani JoséMaría, Sahlén Veronica, Støen Ole-Gunnar, Swenson Jon , E., Wabakken Petter,Pellegrini Mario, Herrero Stephen, López-Bao, José Vicente (2016). HumanBehaviour Can Trigger Large Carnivore Attacks in Developed Countries. Nature 6:20552 DOI: 10.1038/srep20552