Gazelles Fall Victim to Stray Dogs in Israel's North

Parks authority says public pressure has reduced its ability to protect endangered species by thinning rampant populations of scavengers.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Eight dead gazelles, which had probably been pursued and bitten by a pack of stray dogs, were found in the Upper Galilee on Sunday by Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspectors. It is presumed that the snow in the area had made movement difficult for the gazelles and enabled the dogs to get close to them.

Public pressure has prevented the authority from reducing populations of animals, such as stray dogs, that constitute a threat to the ecological system, the authority maintains.

Sunday’s incident took place near the community of Kadita. The inspectors who found the dead gazelles also saw a pack of dogs in the vicinity. An injured doe was also found and transferred for treatment. It is believed that some of the gazelles were injured by dog bites, while others died after being reduced to a state of distress by the pursuit.

“The snow that accumulated in the area and fences that blocked the gazelles’ path enabled the dogs to approach them,” said Amit Dolev, an ecologist from the authority's northern district. “This is a sensitive creature whose distress during such a pursuit in effect brought on a heart attack.”

The Israeli gazelle is in danger of extinction and its population has declined in recent years. In a similar incident a few months ago, stray dogs devoured deer near the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood in Jerusalem. According to Dolev, “there are other packs of dogs in the Galilee, and it’s quite possible that there are cases of gazelles being devoured, of which we are unaware.”

In recent years the Environmental Protection Ministry has imposed restrictions on the shooting of stray dogs, which in the past was carried out systematically by inspectors from the authority. Permission was renewed recently, but it restricts the inspectors to nature reserves and does not allow them to shoot in ordinary open spaces, such as the site near Kadita where the incident took place on Sunday.

At a professional conference last week, one of the authority’s senior directors warned that its inspectors were unable to carry out essential thinning of wild animals, due to public pressure. According to the authority’s professionals, there should be thinning of “erupting species.” These include, among others, populations of animals such as dogs or jackals that have multiplied due to food sources supplied by human beings and which devour wild animals in danger of extinction.

A gazelle that died of a dog bite lies in the snow in Kadita, Dec. 2013.

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