Smith: Leash your dogs in high alpine environments (letter)
Concerning the recent article by Drew Mikita (“Dear Drewbie”), he makes some great suggestions about caring for dogs in the high alpine environment. There are many places to take advantage of letting dogs run free in Summit County. I was disappointed, however, that no mention was made of using leashes on dogs while hiking in the high alpine. As a volunteer for the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative during the summer, we learn how important it is for the plants, wildflowers and small wildlife (Pikas and Marmots mainly) in the high alpine environment to be undisturbed as much as possible. Wildflowers bloom only a few short weeks and one paw can set them back years. The animals have to gather all the food they’ll need to survive the winter during the very short summer season. Even well intentioned dogs terrify them, and if they’re off the leash and running off the trail, chances are excellent they’ll scare small mammals into hiding, perhaps losing a chance to gather crucial winter foods. So we spend much of our volunteer time on the trails educating climbers with dogs off leashes about why they should leash them while hiking, and we sincerely thank those who already have them leashed. We love your furry friends and want them to enjoy this doggie wonderland, but we love the wildlife and wildflowers too, as most hikers do, and they should be able to enjoy their wonderland too. There’s no reason all can’t co-exist peacefully.
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