Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?Livestock depredation by large carnivores is an important conservation and economic concern. However conflict could be further amplified if domestic carnivores are involved in depredation along with native carnivores. We assessed the patterns of livestock depredation by a free ranging commensal, the domestic dog and explored the factors driving livestock depredation within the landscape.
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?The study was carried out in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh. We carried out replicated trail surveys to assess dog abundance and quantified the amount of garbage in villages (n = 25) across the landscape from April to June 2013. In the same villages structured interview surveys were done to collect data on the patterns of dog depredation. The questionnaire surveys targeted 20-30% of the total households in the villages where one individual from each household was interviewed. In the sampled households we recorded depredation events in last one year (2012-2013). Key herders were interviewed at the end of the year (2013 and early 2014) to collect information on herding practices and livestock lost to predators for the entire village. We used logistic regression to explore the factors influencing livestock depredation by dogs and information-theoretic approach for model selection.
Results: What are your most important results?Sheep and goat comprised 79% of the predation events (n= 238). Much of the killing occurred during the day time (61%) in the pastures (39%) followed by agricultural fields (35%). Two seasonal peaks of depredation were observed. Our results show that a combination of reduced food availability in the form of garbage and an increased availability of livestock are main factors explaining the probability of livestock depredation.
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?Our study represents the first systematic approach to understand the human dimensions of threat associated with a common free-ranging commensal. Livestock depredation by dogs not only imposes an economic burden on communities but can potentially influence people’s tolerance towards native carnivores such snow leopard and wolves. Thus the study has long terms implications on informing carnivore conflict issues essential for long term conservation planning.