Simple rules for where your dog can ‘go’ on the trail
It’s that time of year again. The accumulation of dog poop along trails that was buried under layers of snow is now exposed. In many areas, it looks like a mine field of canine waste product. Some neighborhood trailheads have sign posts with a container of plastic bags and a sign asking pet owners to clean up after their pet. It’s a good idea and works in some areas, but a lot of dog owners are not willing to carry a bag of poop on their hike. Here’s a compromise: If your dog happens to defecate well off the trail (say, 10 feet or more), then leave it. If the pile is on or near the trail, then find a stick or a rock and scoot the pile off of the trail. It’s quite easy and it won’t get on your hands. Even in the dead of winter, you can usually find a stick. You can even break a dead branch off of a tree. Your fellow hikers will appreciate the effort. Another problem that occurs along trails year-round is loose dogs. There is a Summit County regulation that applies to forest trails: Dogs must be within 10 feet of its owner and under voice control (or leashed). This seems a little excessive when hiking on a trail in the woods, especially where encounters with other people are not frequent. Besides, dogs need exercise and need to run. Larger dogs have a hard time working their heart and lungs if they have to be at their strolling owner’s side or within a 10-foot radius. Smaller dogs with their little legs moving rapidly can probably get a good workout going at their owner’s pace, but other dogs need to run circles around their owner to keep up their fitness. Dogs often run ahead of their owners on the trail. Those who are not “dog people” really don’t want unfamiliar dogs running up to them (or their children). Yelling ahead, “He’s friendly!” or “He doesn’t bite!” really doesn’t offer much comfort. Dog bites are not uncommon, and many people are understandably fearful of dogs. A person with a walking stick would be fully in his or her right to smack an unattended dog in the head. The reason for the Summit County regulation is to protect the dog and other people. There also is a state law that prohibits dogs from chasing elk and deer. This is especially important when these animals are stressed from the harsh winter conditions or have newborn offspring. Being chased by a dog can kill or injure theses animals. Colorado Division of Wildlife Officers will cite the dog owners if this is reported by witnesses. Another compromise is suggested for people who let their dog run loose on the trail: When you see other hikers ahead on the trail, call your dog to your side, stand off to the side of the trail, let the hikers pass, then let your dog run free again. The meets the intent of the law and you will be greeted with gratitude and compliments on your well-behaved dog. If your dog does not come when called, contact the Summit County Humane Society for information on obedience training. It just might save your dog’s life one day. In the Eagles Nest and Ptarmigan Wildernesses, dogs are required to be on a leash at all times. This is a Forest Service regulation is and is enforced by wilderness rangers patrolling those trails. These are two of the messages that Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD) hopes to pass on to hikers this summer with their Ranger Patrol program. Ten volunteers will be trained to patrol non-wilderness trails to help educate hikers about regulations and recreation opportunities, conduct use surveys, and report on trail maintenance conditions. The intent of this program is to duplicate the effort started last year by the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness (FENW). They had 12 volunteer wilderness rangers patrolling the wilderness last summer to educate hikers about regulations established to protect wilderness values. One of those values found in a wilderness is to be in an area free of signs of civilization. Domesticated animals running off the trail and disturbing wildlife is a sign of civilization. If you are interested in participating in the volunteer ranger patrol program or have any questions about the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, please contact Guff VanVooren, executive director, at (970) 309-6058, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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