By: Janet Britt
The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust owns several public preserves around Hawaii. While we do have preserves where dogs are allowed, such as the Veterans Peace Park in Kahului, most of the preserves are places where dogs, other than verified service dogs, are not allowed. These lands were purchased because they contain an abundance of wildlife species and provide habitat for many species which are rare or endangered, primarily birds that nest and forage on these lands. Our preserves are also home to our two mammal species, the hoary bat and the monk seal, both of which raise their young on the lands and waters that make up our preserves. We welcome public access but have found that our animal companions, especially dogs, negatively impact wildlife that live on these refuges. Any human related activity can disturb wildlife. It has been shown that people with dogs – on leash or off – are much more detrimental to wildlife than people without dogs. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are considered to be a subspecies of wolves (Canis lupus), and wildlife perceive dogs as predators. The presence of dogs causes wildlife to move away, temporarily or permanently reducing the amount of available habitat in which to feed, breed, and rest. Animals become less active during the day to avoid dog interactions. Furthermore, the scent of dogs repels wildlife and the effects remain long after the dogs are gone. If a dog is running in the area, the birds become alarmed and cease their routine activities. This increases the amount of energy they use, while simultaneously reducing their opportunities to feed. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites. Some studies show that dog-walking causes more than 40 per cent reduction in bird abundance and more than 35 per cent reduction in bird diversity in woodlands, even if the pets are kept on a leash. Sadly, we have witnessed loose dogs killing an entire colony of young birds. So, please, enjoy our HILT preserves and other areas in Hawai‘i that are dedicated for wildlife habitat and after you get home, show Fido the pictures of your adventure. Mahalo.