Mitigating the Threat of Feral Dogs to Snow Leopards

Feral dogs attacked the ibex above which took refuge in a river. After several hours of struggle, it managed to escape. Many others are not so lucky. Growing populations of feral dogs in snow leopard habitat are a rapidly emerging threat to snow leopards, livestock, and people.

Packs of feral dogs attack snow leopards, kill their prey species, prey on livestock, and attack children and adults. They also act as reservoirs for severe diseases such as rabies, which pose a risk to humans and snow leopards. Feral dog populations have rapidly increased in snow leopard habitats of many countries, including India, China, Bhutan and others.

In India’s Spiti Valley, a hotspot for snow leopard conservation, feral dogs have multiplied due to increased visitor numbers and inadequate waste management. This problem can be addressed humanely by improving garbage management, including the disposal of livestock carcasses to reduce food availability for dogs and by controlling their population through sterilization efforts. However, this is easier said than done, considering the significant challenges of catching an intelligent, fast-learning social animal in a mountainous, rugged landscape.

Our partner communities in Spiti Valley are piloting efforts to address this huge conservation and human health hazard. In collaboration with regional veterinarians, they have organized dog sterilization camps. During last year’s pilot, the people of Kibber and Chichim villages collectively managed to catch and help sterilize 59 feral dogs. This year, these two villages and three others have sterilized 100 dogs. This constitutes 68% of the adult feral dog population in these villages. Our immediate goal is to reach between 80 to 100%.

In addition to sterilization, the veterinarians also vaccinate the dogs against rabies.  As a result of the sterilization and vaccination, the dogs are expected to be healthier and less aggressive. Our field team members serve as catalysts, coordinators and para-vets, and we also provide support for any equipment and other materials needed for these camps. Note: Community members provide post-surgery care and food to the dogs.

This undertaking, led by our field staff Kesang Chunit, is a major collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders, including veterinary doctors, our team based at the Nature Conservation Foundation, local government, and the communities. Says Chunit, “ Our people lose more livestock to feral dogs today than they do to snow leopards and wolves. This is a really important effort that helps snow leopards and people alike.”

We also support communities to help them implement better garbage management practices and create carcass disposal areas that are accessible to vultures and other wildlife but not to dogs. To be effective, this enormous effort must be sustained over several years.

These long-term strategic solutions are only possible thanks to you.
If you’d like to support more conservation programs like this please consider a donation.


Our team is immensely thankful to veterinarians Dr. Dakpa Tenzin and Dr. Mukesh from Spiti’s Animal Husbandry Department for their hard work and commitment.

Photo credit: Rhetick Sengupta, NCF-India

One Comment

  1. Another humane–and I hope ultimately effective–solution from Snow Leopard Trust. Thank you for the work you do for all species in the region, including humans.

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