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Northeast Region Public Information Officer
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DENVER - Colorado Parks and Wildlife is issuing a warning that your dog chasing wildlife is illegal and dog owners may be cited for it. The warning comes after two separate incidents in unincorporated Jefferson County where dogs mortally wounded deer.
Whether it is your dog attacking wildlife, or a dog chasing wildlife, both actions are illegal and hefty fines can come with it.
“People may forget that their pet dog is a predator and they can injure and kill wildlife if not properly controlled,” said Wildlife Officer Joe Nicholson. “Dog owners are liable for the damage they cause to wildlife.”
Dog owners can be cited for negligently allowing their dog to harass wildlife, which carries a $274 fine, including surcharges. If a dog attack leads to the death of wildlife, the owner can be cited for illegal take. The fine associated with the illegal take would be $959 for deer and $1,370 for elk, including surcharges.
The two incidents in Jefferson County involved dogs mortally wounding doe (female) deer. In one of the incidents near Evergreen on Oct. 20, the dog owner was cited for both illegal take of the deer and for negligently allowing their dog to harass wildlife. The second incident also involved a dog mortally wounding a deer, but that dog and its owner have not been identified.
Dogs that chase wild animals can cause them extreme stress and injuries from bites. If that occurs in late winter, many big game animals susceptible to dog harassment are pregnant females. As they run to escape, deer and elk expend crucial energy that can lead to an increase in the mortality rate of the animals or their unborn calves and fawns.
Dogs that chase or harass wild animals are a serious concern any time of year; however, it is during wintertime when the consequences become more harmful for many big game animals.
"By winter, deer and elk are just trying to survive the snow and lack of forage," Nicholson said. "If dogs chase them, they quickly expend their already limited fat stores, leading to poor health and eventual death from starvation. That is what we are trying to prevent."
Wildlife managers say that although it may be legal to let dogs run free in some recreation areas, they strongly recommend keeping pets on a leash whenever encounters with animals are likely.
"The stress and injuries caused by dogs are concerns, but so are conflicts," said Area Wildlife Manager Mark Lamb. "Each year, we investigate numerous incidents in which a person is injured by a wild animal. A common factor in many of these situations is that the victim's dog first approached or harassed the animal."
Lamb adds that because moose see dogs as a predatory threat, the large ungulates will aggressively try to stomp any dog that approaches it, often chasing it back to its owner who then becomes the target of the angry moose.
There have been at least four moose attacks this year in Colorado - three of which had dogs involved - that resulted in injuries to humans.
In addition, Lamb warns that mountain lions, bears or coyotes can easily make a meal of a dog.
"Predators do not differentiate between their natural prey and a dog," said Lamb. "You don't want to be in a situation where you watch your pet being eaten. The best way to keep this from occurring is to either keep the pet close to you on a short leash, or leave it at home if you are heading to an area where you might encounter wildlife."
In addition to keeping dogs on a leash or at home, CPW has other suggestions for viewing and enjoying wildlife in a safe and ethical manner.
"Watch wild animals from a distance with binoculars, a camera lens or a spotting scope," Lamb said. "Remember, if the animal reacts to you or your dog, you are definitely too close."
To report any instance of dogs chasing wildlife, the public can call their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office or Colorado State Patrol. CPW’s Denver office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached at 303-291-7227.
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