SALT LAKE CITY — With March 20 being the first day of Spring, and COVID-19 pandemic still limiting travel, many Utahns are ready to be outdoors. Hiking on area trails is a great way to get exercise, release stress and shake off cabin fever.
Dog owners beware if you are planning to take your four-legged friend with you on hikes or camping this spring and summer, owner are responsible to make sure pets don’t chase or harass wildlife, this time of year especially.
Utah wildlife are often compromised this time of year from lack of food, making them vulnerable and weak. Dogs that are off leash while in nature may act on their instincts to chase deer and other big game animals they see. Being chased this time of year is harmful for the deer because by the end of winter, they are usually in survival mode.
“If they get chased, it uses up energy they may need to survive,” Covy Jones, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources big game coordinator, said. “These animals are already depleted, and they often can’t afford to waste energy. If you or a pet force them to move away from where they are trying to feed, it could be harmful.”
Deer and other big game animals typically move to lower elevations in search of feed during the snowy winter months. With the population growth in Cache Valley and other urban areas in Utah they can often be found closer to roads and other urban areas where people and pets may be.
“National forests are some of the areas where people may encounter wildlife while recreating,” Dixie National Forest Public Affairs Officer Kevin Abel said. “While pets are allowed in all national forests, they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet while in developed recreation areas (like campsites) and on established, interpretive trails. Most of the other areas within national forests do not require dogs to be on a leash, but they must be under the owner’s control at all times.”
Pet owners should not let their dogs chase deer, elk, moose or other wild animals. It can be harmful not only for the wildlife, but also can be dangerous for your pet.
Utah law states that a person may kill or injure a dog that is “attacking, chasing or worrying any species of hoofed protected wildlife.”
“Pets allowed to run at large also are at risk from vehicles and predators,” Dave Whittekiend, forest supervisor for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest said. “If you care about your pets, it’s in their best interest to keep them secured while you are recreating outdoors.”
Here are some tips from Wild Aware Utah about keeping dogs safe around wildlife:
- Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date.
- Be aware that moose can be especially aggressive toward dogs.
- Always supervise pets when outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk.
- Avoid going near den sites and thick vegetation.
- If you find an animal carcass, leave the area — it could be a kill that a cougar is guarding or will be returning to.
- Make noise while hiking.
- Do not allow dogs to play with or chase wildlife. It is against Utah law to allow dogs to chase or harass wildlife.