Highlanders are concerned about the free roaming canines carried along by hikers, pilgrims, and others visiting the region.
Gup Wangdi of Lingzhi Gewog under Thimphu claimed that dogs are frequently brought into the gewog by visitors, and these dogs pose a threat to both locals and the domestic animals in the gewog.
He said that the villagers are unhappy about the increasing dog population.
“The Livestock Department has also neutered the dogs in the region, but it is impossible to capture the dogs that are hidden and are wild, and these dogs give birth, which increases the population and the risks,” he said.
He added that there have been several reports of feral dogs devouring calves and crippling cattle, as well as people being bitten when passing by.
Gup Kaka of Lunana Gewog under Gasa said people traveling for business or on a trip carry these dogs with them and leave them behind when they go back.
‘The yaks and cattle while grazing eat the dog feces and become infected with Gid, also known as Gu-Yum disease,” he said.
Gid is a disease that affects the central nervous system of yaks and sheep and is brought on by Coenuruses cerebralis. Carnivores’ small intestines are infected by the Taenia multiceps tapeworm larvae.
Kaka said that these dogs avoid socializing, and instead prowl the forest and become wild.
“These dogs attempt to bite both young and old passersby’s. We reported the matter to the Livestock Department a long time ago, and people, here, tried relocating these dogs as well, but it didn’t work out. And the dogs were neutered this time, so we’re expecting that these issues will be resolved,” he said.
According to the Department of Livestock under Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, in some cases, free-roaming dogs move along with people traveling from lowland to highland for hikes, pilgrimage visits and business, during which, these dogs are left behind. And when food is scarce, the dogs start to hunt not just livestock, but small wild mammals as well.
Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Karma Wangdi said that the feral dogs in the highland predate and attack calves, young yak and sheep, and also poses a risk to the communities, especially to the aged population and school- going children.
There are reports of feral dogs attacking cattle, sheep and yaks from Sephu, Lunana, Laya, Haa and Thimphu.
Since most of the attacks are not reported to concerned authorities or the livestock extension office, the department is not able to specify the concrete data on the livestock and wild animals being predated and attacked by the feral dogs.
As per the data maintained with the department, there are about 1,224 feral dogs recorded from the highland dzongkhags, that are Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Bumthang, Wangdue, Paro, Trongsa.
As part of the Nationwide Accelerated Dog Population Management and Control Program; the department in collaboration with DeSuung Office and the Department of Forest and Park Services are catching these dogs using dart guns, and trap methods to sterilize, vaccinate and relocate them either by rehoming and by putting it up for adoption by individuals and the community.
The Department of Livestock in consultation with the Local Government, the Department of Forests and Park Services, Tourism Council of Bhutan are advocating through the media like BBS, radio, and social media and Facebook for the general public to refrain from taking the free-roaming dogs and feeding them while going for a hike and on a pilgrimage visit.
He said that given their behavioral changes, habitat and feeding habit, it becomes very difficult to locate the dogs in the first place, secondly, the dogs shy away the moment they come in contact with humans, which makes it very difficult for the team to locate and catch them.
“There are also instances where some people translocate free-roaming dogs from towns and villages to isolated places, like Chelela and Pelela, and some to Memelakha and Pangbisa waste dumping sites, which ultimately leads these dogs to change their behavior and feeding habits,” he said.
He added, “If we are to control the menace and nuisance and also threats of feral dogs to public health, livestock and wild animals, the department would like to request the general public not to translocate free-roaming dogs to isolated places and forests, and also refrain from taking dogs from lowlands to highlands.”