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A new method to monitor stray dog abundance

Free-roaming dogs (Canis familiaris) can fill a variety of ecological roles including competitor, predator, prey, and transmitter of disease to both wildlife and people with particular concern for rabies. A range of methods has been used to control dog populations, but monitoring dogs is a critical part of assessing the effectiveness of these methods. In a recent paper published in’s open access journal Tropical Conversation Science, researchers in a suburban area of Mumbai, India tested a method using natural marks on dogs along with counts of non-marked individuals to estimate the abundance of free-ranging dogs.

Along with being a time and cost effective method for monitoring free-roaming dog populations, more commonly known as stray dogs, the researchers explain that, “Using natural marks avoids the need of artificially marking dogs or handling them for the purpose of marking. This reduces the risk of stray dog bites or disease exposure to researchers, as well as possible biases due to dog shyness as a result of handling or marking.”

In many free-roaming dog populations there are dogs with natural markings, which make them easy to identify as individuals, and dogs that are darker or mono-colored which are difficult to identify. In situations where it is difficult to identify an individual dog, the marked dogs can be used to estimate abundance given that the marked population is representative of the unmarked in terms of sightability.

The paper proposes that this method “may be appropriate when point estimates of free-ranging dog populations are required, but no readily available marks exist and limitations preclude other forms of artificial marking.”

“Our study provides a practical and time-effective method to assess changes in dog populations in such areas where control programmes are in progress.”

CITATION: Punjabi, G. A., Athreya, V. and Linnell, J. D. C. 2012. Using natural marks to estimate free-ranging dog Canis familiaris abundance in a MARK-RESIGHT framework in suburban Mumbai, India. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(4):510-520.

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