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News

Dogs Causing Problems for Wildlife

KCRMA Park Rangers have received reports and witnessed dogs off leash
in Open Space chasing wildlife, particularly deer. In November 2009, a
large dog off leash ran from its property and into Open Space to chase two
deer. The dog continued to chase the deer through heavy snow several
hundred feet toward Valley Parkway. While trying to avoid the dog, the deer
ran east across the road into Brannon Gearhart Park. Since it was 8:30
a.m., many vehicles were on the road and several stopped quickly in both
directions to avoid the deer. As you can see, a dog off leash chasing deer
almost caused a traffic accident and could have meant serious injury to the
deer, dog and driver. The following article from the Colorado Division of
Wildlife explains further the need to keep dogs on a leash.

Dogs are harassing big game animals in southwest Colorado this winter
and Division of Wildlife officials are reminding pet owners to keep their
animals under control.

At least two elk died as a result of being chased and injured by dogs near
Durango and Bayfield; dogs have chased bighorn sheep in the Almont
Triangle area near Gunnison; deer have been harassed near Creede and
within the city limits of Durango; and deer and elk have been chased in the
Montrose area.

Dogs chasing wildlife is a perennial problem throughout Colorado, but an
abundance of snow in the southwest corner of the state is causing
additional problems this winter. Deep snow with a crusty surface is making
travel difficult for deer and elk. Unlike hoofed animals, dogs can run on top
of the crusty snow and are easily chasing down the large animals, said Patt
Dorsey, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in
Durango.

“Some people think their dog would never chase wildlife. But when dogs
see deer or elk they may act on their natural instincts and give chase,”
Dorsey said.

During winter, deer and elk expend large amounts of energy to stay alive —
they can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight during the cold
months. When big game animals are forced to run they become exhausted
and use up valuable calories they need to stay alive. In addition, many
female deer and elk are pregnant and especially need to conserve energy.
Pet owners can be fined up to $275 for allowing their animals to chase
wildlife. A pet owner in the Vallecito Reservoir area was fined that amount
after her two dogs chased down and injured an elk calf on February 7,
2010.

Dogs observed chasing wildlife can be shot by law enforcement officers or
landowners.

“Dogs chase wildlife year-round, but it is more of a problem during the
winter when deer and elk are vulnerable. It’s difficult for them to move
through the snow and the nutritious green plants are gone. Deer and elk
have been losing weight since November,” Dorsey said. “Keep your pets
indoors, secured in a pen or under strict voice control.”

Cats also cause problems because they kill birds. Cat owners should put a
bell on pets’ collars and limit the amount of time their cats spend outdoors
during the day.

Anyone who sees dogs chasing wildlife should call the Ken-Caryl Ranch Park
Rangers at 303-979-1876, ext. 170.

Ken-Caryl Ranch