The Case Against Dogs

Dogs: beloved companions on nearly all UtahOutsider hikes and rides. Because of dogs, I see more wildlife and feel more a part of the wilderness. As four-leggeds with keener senses of smell and hearing, I consider them a bridge to the wild. Often, I follow their line of sight to spot deer, quail, turkey, and coyotes. IMG_4823Through their actions and behaviors, I’m reminded that the human perspective is just one lens, not necessarily the ultimate one or the most insightful when it comes to happenings in the wild.

However, Tom Becker, a Utah wildlife biologist for more than two decades, reminded me dogs aren’t all good. Especially in the winter, their presence has a negative impact on prey animals. They move grazers off feeding grounds and force them to expend valuable energy – two precious commodities when it’s cold and barren around here.

As in many states, folks can shoot dogs if they are chasing or threatening livestock or protected hooved wildlife (like deer). The same goes for dogs in national parks or wildlife refuges. Read the state law here and the federal law here. Even in dog-friendly Massachusetts (where I lived for a time), dogs are banned from all Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Back then, I was put out.

IMG_3399But I get it. Hiking and riding with dogs is like adding a few more predators to the neighborhood. They can wreck bird nests, kill bunnies, and stress nearly all immediate wildlife. This year, with the help of electric collars, I’m teaching them not to chase after prey. If I can reduce their impact and still benefit from their presence, it’ll be a win-win. Or at least, I’ll keep them from being shot.

Read about UtahOutsider’s kind of surveillance.

Read about dog perspectives.

Another note: I’ve officially given up trying to distinguish coyote tracks from my dogs’ tracks. Can you tell the difference? Check out more images on UtahOutsider’s facebook pages.


Posted in Utah on Foot, Utah Wilderness and tagged , .

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