14 Interactions Among Dogs, People, and the Environment in Boulder, Colorado: A Case Study
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MARC BEKOFF AND CARRON A. MEANEY 14 Interactions Among Dogs, People, and the Environment in Boulder, Colorado A Case Study The environment is not a luxury. When political movements have faded, when economic systems have changed, when ideologies have been superseded and forgotten, the environment will still be important. —Sylvan and Bennett 1994, p. 6 That recreational activities disturb wildlife is well appreciated but poorly understood. Most popular forms of recreation in wildlands have yet to receive detailed study. —Knight and Cole 1995, p. 61 INTRODUCTION Across the United States and in many other countries there is growing interest in how human and nonhuman animals (hereafter animals) can best share space that can be used by all parties for recreational purposes (see Knight and Gutzwiller 1995 for review). Although concern often focuses on the mutual well-being of humans and animals, when priorities have to be established, humans generally receive favorable treatment. Furthermore, when there are competing interests among humans, domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), wild animals, and “nature” in general, dogs’ well-being and interests are often overridden (because they are “merely dogs” or “simply domesticated animals” (see Bekoff 1995, 1996a and Bekoff and Jamieson 1996 for discussion). In the late 1800s, the people of Boulder, Colorado, had the foresight to set aside a large parcel of land backing into the foothills. Since then, additional land has been purchased under an Open Space program to create a greenbelt around the city, and to provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities . This program has been very successful and popular with the public. In recent years, there has been a large increase in the use of Open Space trails in Boulder. As emphasized by Roberts (1995), Boulderites who enjoy the outdoors “love their parks to death”as they pursue recreational activities. This community resource, which is shared by humans and animals, consists of Originally published in 1997 in Bekoff, M., and Meaney, C. A. 1997. Interactions Among Dogs, People , and Nature in Boulder, Colorado: A Case Study. Anthrozoös 10, 23–31. Reprinted with permission, International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ). about 25,000 acres and approximately 150 miles of trails. In 1993 there were about 1.3 million visits, an increase of 13% compared to previous years (Miller 1994). In one study, it was reported that 21.3% of groups visiting Boulder City Open Space participated in exercising their companion dogs (Zeller et al. 1994). In Boulder, as in other communities, companion animals such as dogs are very important to some people and problematic to others. The resulting conflicts between different groups (pro- and anti-dog factions) of people have placed the Boulder City Council in the position of having to consider various management decisions. Empirical data are necessary and can help to deal with controversial issues such as these in a more objective and straightforward manner. The development of sound management policies that attempt to maximize the well-being of all parties in recreational areas, including the possibility of placing restrictions on dogs, require detailed consideration of perceived and actual problems. Whereas there is a significant literature on human attitudes towards domestic and wild animals (e.g. Kellert 1994; Serpell 1995a,b, and references therein), there are very few data that can inform management decisions at the local level. As the number of humans and companion animals increases, existing land use problems continue to grow in Boulder (Roberts 1995; Zaslowsky 1995) and in other communities. Among the major issues regarding land use in Boulder and other locales is the concern that off-leash dogs disturb other dogs, people, wildlife, and the environment. Some data support this claim (see Lowry and McArthur 1978, Gentry 1983, Mainini et al. 1993, Miller 1994, Knight & Gutzwiller 1995, and references therein), whereas other data suggest either that dogs have a minimal demonstrable effect on animals such as deer (e.g. Progulske and Baskett 1958; Sweeney et al. 1971; Scott and Causey 1973) or that human impacts are equally or more invasive (e.g. Yalden and Yalden 1990). Clearly, the issues concerning the impact of dogs on wildlife and habitat require further and more detailed attention. METHODS Data were collected from September 1995 through April 1996 at six different locations in and around Boulder (four Open Space locations and on the University of Colorado, Boulder, campus and on the Pearl Street Mall). To achieve our goals of learning more about the behavior of off-leash dogs and about people’s attitudes and perceptions towards dogs, we devised an...