Last week, a Calgary resident sent a video to Global News after filming two dogs chasing a moose and its calf along a suburban street in the Springbank Hill community straight towards a nearby school. Thankfully the children had yet to be dismissed for the day and no one was harmed. But the owner of the dogs was nowhere to be seen in the video.
Moose are typically docile animals, but when aggravated by humans or domestic pets, they can lash out in defence, especially when their calf is present. This is why it’s important to monitor your dog any time they’re around wildlife. Not only can your dog end up injured, but the repeated stress of being chased by a dog can also have adverse effects on the wildlife’s long-term health, “including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune systems, and increased vulnerability to parasites and disease,” writes Lisa Glover, the senior communications advisor for the Alberta Government, in an email.
A moose might be over twice the size of your pet Labrador, but that doesn’t mean the moose won’t be startled if your dog comes bounding through their natural habitat. “When encountering other animals such as domestic dogs, wild animals can become alarmed and cease routine activities,” Glover writes. “This increases the amount of energy they use, while also reducing their opportunities to feed.” Wildlife is repelled by the scent of dogs, even after they’re gone. And if they sense them anywhere near the areas they feed, breed, and rest, the wildlife will move away, temporarily or permanently reducing their available habitat. In order to avoid interactions with dogs, wildlife will also become less active during daytime hours.
Encounters between your pet dog and wildlife aren’t just detrimental to the wildlife, though. On top of your dog risking injury, interactions with wildlife can cause your dog to contract or spread diseases. And if your dog is caught pursuing big game like moose, deer, elk, or bear, among others, the consequences could take a toll on your wallet and your pet. In Alberta, dogs pursuing big game is considered an offence and can land you a hefty fine. Even just having your dog running around in public unattended can land you a fine between $50 and $100. And in more severe cases, “their pet could be put down,” Glover writes.
In order to avoid any unnecessary interactions between domestic dogs and wildlife, Glover suggests that anyone who witnesses a dog chasing a wild animal in Alberta should report the incident to the 24/7 call line ‘Report A Poacher’ at 1-800-642-3800. In other provinces, you should contact your provincial government’s wildlife department. This, however, does not excuse pet owners from the responsibility of controlling their pets. “Pet owners should take every precaution to ensure this does not happen,” Glover writes.