Trekkers in Nepal have often been impressed by the friendliness of Nepali dogs along the trails. Most approach hikers, tails wagging, and they have got used to being fed biscuits and will follow trekkers. Some dogs have even followed trekkers across the Tashi Labtsa or Thorung Pass.
They bond with visitors, acting as guides and watchdogs: all in return for some food, and sometimes the privilege of snuggling into sleeping bags. But many of these dogs are abandoned when the trekkers fly back to Kathmandu from Lukla or Jomsom, and they eagerly await for the next trekking group to follow.
Others get lost in the forests and go wild. It seems there have been quite a few dogs especially in Khumbu that are living wild in the moraines near Lobuje, taking on the habits of their evolutionary ancestors, the wolves.
After hearing rumours of wild dogs from yak herders, Rajendra Gurung at the Khumbu office of the World Wildlife Fund decided to investigate. He encountered two wild dogs one early morning in upper Khumbu. They looked like a familiar breed but something was different. "They stared at me like wolves," Gurung recalls. "The way they looked at me, I was certain they were no longer tame."
These were not your docile lap dogs to begin with: they were fierce Tibetan mastiffs who somehow must have got lost and decided to stay in the seasonal pastures near Pheriche. Gurung gestured to them with hand commands that should have been familiar, but they kept their distance as if expecting hostility. Then he saw them try to hunt down a Danphe pheasant that escaped by flying off through the undergrowth. "That was enough to convince me that those dogs were indeed feral," says Gurung.
Padam Ghale of Mandala Treks has come across the dogs along the Everest trail. "They are not friendly, and they hunt in packs attacking kitchen tents at night," he recalls.
Chhingdu Tshering, an elderly woman who lives just below Namche Bazaar pointed to one of the cliffs across the valley where she once saw two dogs circling a calf. The helpless cries of the animal carried across the mountain as it fell. If cows stray too far from their herders, the dogs are quick to seize their chance. From the ones that escape, locals have deduced that the dogs kill their larger prey in true wolf style- by sinking their fangs into the jugular vein. "This is becoming regular," Tshering told us. "We don't know where these dogs come from and where they go."
Conservationists in the region believe the wild dogs have profited by a lack of other predators in the Khumbu forests. A few years ago locals had poisoned the dogs when they became a nuisance and buried them. But other dogs dug them up at night, ate them up, and died of secondary poisoning. Many Himalayan eagles also died from the poison.