The mountains in North Macedonia are full of abandoned dogs that pose a threat not only to people, but also to wildlife. Packs of hungry dogs are eating the lynx’s prey and the prey of other carnivores in the wild, and due to the genetic similarities, they also hybridize with wolves.
But, although they are looked upon as predators, the dogs themselves are victims in these cases – they were abandoned by the irresponsible owners, which have left them no other option but to hunt to survive and become highly aggressive. And the fault is also with the systematic flaws in the state institutions, that poorly implement the good laws which regulate these situations.
The field survey with the use of photo traps by the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) revealed dogs deep in the woods. Dogs were also seen at the mountain passes such as Gjavato, Bukovo, and in the Mavrovo and Popova Shapka national parks. The findings about the consequences of this phenomenon on wildlife were presented at the “Abandoned dogs – threat to the wildlife” Forum. According to Dime Melovski, MES’s Program Coordinator, the dogs both hunt and vulture, they pose danger tor the hikers in the mountains, but they are also under constant stress and pose danger to other animals.
“The problem with the abandoned dogs in the wild has escalated in the last few years. They pose a threat to the survival of the lynx, since they eat its food. Only half of the young lynxes reach sexual maturity and this situation is worse if the female lynxes with cubs, that aren’t able to hunt, are left without food. For a population of 40-50 lynx adult couples that live on the territories of North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, it poses a great risk,” Melovski explained.
It is common knowledge that in the past several years the stray dogs from the rural municipalities have been transported and released by the communal services in the wild. Some municipalities that lack finances, personnel or desire, have adopted this “solution” for the large number of abandoned pets on their territory. According to the animal protection activists, one of the biggest reasons for the increase in the number of cases of irresponsible ownership is the €15 fine, which is ridiculously low, considering the consequences of abandoning animals, and moreover, it is not being implemented properly.
“More than half of this country’s municipalities don’t have an agreement with an animal shelter. where abandoned animals would be sheltered and treated, even though the laws identify them as one of the key elements in the solution of this problem,” said Dimitar Terzievski from the Food and Veterinary Agency.
Terzievski says that with efficient sterilization of 75% of the animals, the results will be evident in a short time.
The largest number of abandoned dogs that live in the wild are hunting dogs, according to the data by the Ministry of Agriculture. They have a natural instinct for hunting and are able to adapt very quickly.
On the other hand, half of the dogs that end up at Laika Animal Shelter in Skopje are either purebred or one of the parents is a purebred. According to Director Voislav Dimitrovski, it undoubtedly speak about unconscientious owners.
“The solution to the problem with abandoned dogs cannot be looked at in individual plans and programs. It has to be systematic and to be covered by a national program, which will oblige all the concerned sides,” Dimitriovski stressed.