Sunday 17 March 2013

The wild dogs of Mexico

Not guilty
On March 6 Notimex reported that an inebriated 61-year-old Mexican man was attacked and killed by wild dogs in Tlalnepantla, north of Mexico City. This followed an attack in early January in an ecological reserve within the Federal District (Mexico City), in which four people were killed. And after that news broke, it was reported that a 15-year-old girl had been found dead and partly eaten last December in the same area. She is now believed to have been the first victim.

All six victims were partly eaten by the dogs, suggesting that this is not rabies, or fear-based: it is hunting for food.

In an interview with Mexico’s La Prensa, Julio Cancino, who is finishing his studies in veterinary and zoological sciences at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City (UNAM), said that stray dogs usually live in streets and subsist off of garbage. In that environment, it makes sense to fear people.

In Mexico many dogs are only loosely connected to owners and communities. When they move further afield and breed in the wild, the risk of attacks on humans increases. These dogs, born completely outside of human contact, can form packs and behave much like their ancestral wolves.

“These animals are born without human contact, so they are no longer domestic dogs, but feral dogs,” said Cancino. “They eat squirrels, opossums, rodents. It’s no wonder they can devour a person. Humans are unknown to them, and can therefore also be seen as prey.”

And though Cancino stressed that the dangerous dogs are not merely strays, he did assert that feral dogs “will get food where they can get it, as long as the prey is within their means” and that “it wouldn’t be hard for them to kill a man.”

Of the over 100 dog breeds, which can range from tiny lap dogs to hunting dogs, one has actually been bred to kill humans: a Brazilian cross between a mastiff and a bloodhound.

“They were used to find and kill slaves fleeing the fields,” said Cancino. “They had the bloodhound scent and the strength of a mastiff. One was enough to kill a person.”

After the recent spate of killings Mexican authorities rounded up more than 50 dogs and conducted analysis of their teeth, digestive systems, fur and nails.

Result? 12 of the dogs were confirmed to have eaten human flesh, and have since been destroyed.

In Mexico it is common for people to walk the streets of rural villages with rocks in hand, and for barking dogs to flee at the sight if a human reaching down to pick up a stone. But what if the dogs continue to wander, and breed, and lose that fear? Barring a nation-wide program to manage the canine population – and that is not about to happen – we are likely to hear more stories like this.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, and Wild Dogs of Mexico.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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1 comment:

  1. Nice to see you are still alive and have found some internt access.