SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is warning people to be careful with their dogs this spring while hiking on trails trying to get out of the house and practicing social distancing. Folks may run across wildlife especially malnourished big game.
Covy Jones, DWR’s big game coordinator said, “if they get chased, it uses up energy they may need to survive. These animals are already depleted, and they often can’t afford to waste energy from any actions that cause them to move away from where they are trying to feed.”
Jones said if you are planning to take your dog on any hikes this spring and summer, make sure your pet doesn’t chase or harass any wildlife.
“Utah wildlife often struggles to find food during winters that have heavy snow,” Jones said. “By early spring, many animals are vulnerable and weak,” he said. “Dogs that are off leash in nature may act on their instincts to chase deer and other big game animals they see.”
While there are many areas throughout the state where dogs aren’t required to stay on a leash, 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.
“Wildlife is often unpredictable and may injure or kill a dog seen as threatening,” Jones said.
Dogs that are off leash can also disturb nesting ground birds and can chase, injure or kill small mammals, deer, elk or moose.
“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.”
Wild Aware Utah, an organization with an education program that offers people information about wildlife and safety information.
They offer suggestions for keeping people and their dogs safe around wildlife besides keeping your dog’s vaccinations up to date. Moose can be especially aggressive towards dogs and always supervise pets when outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk. Be sure to 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 and make noise while hiking.