Free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris) in Lithuania: their distribution and impact on wildlife
The dog (Canis familiaris) is one of the most common predators in the world with a population of about 900 million, which continues to grow. Only 20% of the world population of dogs are considered pets. There are irresponsibly cared, free-roaming, or completely homeless individual dogs or their groups in the natural environment of Lithuania. The paper represents a study into the distribution of free-ranging dogs in the hunting areas of Lithuania and their impact on wild fauna. A telephone survey was conducted between 2019 and 2022 to find out the location of free-ranging dogs and their contact with wildlife between 2017 and 2021. Six-hundred-and-eighty users of hunting area units agreed to participate in the survey. In places where dogs were frequent, scats were collected and analysed. The conducted survey showed that in 361 hunting area units, the respondents observed free-ranging dogs at least once during the last five years, which makes 39.5% of all hunting area units in Lithuania. The dogs were observed in groups of 2–5 individuals that usually were larger than 15 kg. Free-ranging dogs interact with animals in the environment, the highest proportion of contacts (51.4%) is with roe deer (Capreolus capreolus); 35.4% of those contacts resulted in the death of roe deer. Plant residues were detected in 92% samples of scats, but roe deer residues accounted for the highest biomass consumption (49%).