This e-mail is written in response to Mr. Bob Armstrong's "My Turn: Dogs need leashes at wetlands to protect migratory birds." I am in agreement with Mr. Armstrong's findings that animals that affect or, better phrased, displace shorebirds from their feeding can and most likely will have an adverse effect on their survival and in this case also their breeding success at their northern breeding grounds. I also was a researcher on a similar study at the UC Bodega Marine Laboratory. We examined the effects of "intruders" on feeding grounds of wintering shorebirds (prior to their northward migration). Our results also showed that as intruder density increased, feeding activity decreased. However, our study showed that intruders can be a number of things ranging from dogs along the beach to people to predators (such as merlins and peregrines) and also other species of shorebirds.
I agree that some dogs tend to chase birds, but as a dog owner myself, isn't it also the responsibility of the dog owner to see and predict such events before they happen? In other words, leash your dog well in advance of getting within range of disturbing feeding shorebirds, waterfowl and other dogs and people for that matter. Or, if your dog is obedient, have them on heel. Clearly with well-managed and trained dogs, if we can walk them on heel in distractions such as traffic, we should be able to walk them past birds that are usually some distance away. In my opinion, it is the dog owners who need to become more responsible with their animals and their animals' behaviors. If Juneau chooses to restrict dogs to leashes on the Mendenhall Wetlands, and as a result also restrict their opportunities to engage in exercise, when will we as a community offer dog parks?
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