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The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) urges dog owners to make sure that their pets are secured to prevent them from chasing wildlife. Throughout the state, dogs chasing wildlife is a growing problem for wildlife managers.

Every year DOW offices receive hundreds of calls reporting dogs chasing deer, elk or other wildlife species, but this year’s heavy snowfall has pushed wildlife closer to homes and has left wildlife in an even more vulnerable condition.
Owners are urged to keep their dogs on a leash when hiking and to make sure that their pets cannot escape their fenced yards or kennels.
Dogs are instinctively hunters or herders and if given the opportunity, even the most mild-manner dogs will act on this instinct to chase other animals. This problem can be worsened when two or more dogs are allowed to run together. In groups, dogs develop a “pack-mentality” which greatly increases their desire to chase or kill wild animals.

“It’s a serious problem,” says Dawson Swanson, district wildlife manager in Bailey. “Dogs that are allowed to run loose can cause serious injuries or death to big-game animals.”
Deer and elk that are forced to run from dogs must use the energy stores that they need to carry them through the winter months. Even if the animal is not caught, the stress and fatigue caused by the chase could cause the animal to die later.
This problem is increasing as more people are moving into rural areas that deer and elk use for winter-range habitat. Large animals congregate in the winter months which make them an easy target for dogs.
DOW officials also emphasize that dog/wildlife conflicts are not just a winter problem. Deer fawns and elk calves are especially susceptible to attack shortly after they are born in the spring.
Pet owners are legally responsible for any damages that are caused to wildlife by their dogs. Under Colorado statute, pet owners can be fined $274 if their animals are harassing wildlife. If a dog kills or injures an animal, an additional fine of $500 can be assessed. All Colorado law enforcement officers are authorized to shoot dogs that are chasing wildlife or livestock.

“Keeping wildlife safe from dogs also helps to protect dogs from wildlife” says Patt Dorsey, area wildlife manager in Durango. “We receive calls every year about dogs that have been injured or killed by mountain lions and coyotes.” Dogs can also be susceptible to disease or injuries resulting from contact with smaller animals like porcupines, skunks, rodents and prairie dogs.

DOW officials would also like to remind cat owners to keep their pets indoors. Cats are very skilled hunters and they can have a considerable impact on the populations of small animals and song birds. Cats are also easy prey for foxes and coyotes.
“Pets that are kept at home will have a longer and healthier life than those that are allowed to run free” says Dorsey.

If you see dogs chasing wildlife, call the local DOW office or any law enforcement agency. In residential areas, please talk to neighbors whose dogs are running loose.

Mailing Address

PO Box 73
Drake, CO 80515

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