Four-legged friend or foe? Dog walking displaces native birds from natural areas

By Peter B. Banks and Jessica V. Bryant
Biology Letters (2007) 3, 611-613

Dog walking is among the world's most popular recreational activities, attracting millions of people to natural areas each year with diverse benefits to human and canine health. But conservation managers often ban dog walking from natural areas fearing that wildlife will see dogs as potential predators and abandon their natural habitats, resulting in outcry at the restricted access to public land.

Arguments are passionate on both sides and debate has remained subjective and unresolved because experimental evidence of the ecological impacts of dog walking has been lacking. Here we show that dog walking in woodland leads to a 35% reduction in bird diversity and 41% reduction in abundance, both in areas where dog walking is common and where dogs are prohibited. These results argue against access by dog walkers to sensitive conservation areas.