There's a new reason for residents to keep their dogs leashed on Blackmer Drive and the Emerald Mountain area.
About 600 sheep were released Wednesday to graze on Orton Meadows northwest of Howelsen Hill.
"Our main reason for doing this is to mitigate fire danger by clearing out undergrowth," said Gardner Orton, whose father, Lyman Orton, owns the property and has allowed residents to use much of it for nonmotorized recreation.
That won't change, as long as residents continue to be good stewards of the land, the Ortons said.
The meadows are close to well-used hiking trails so it's critical that dogs don't chase and harm the sheep.
"We're asking people to do their part by keeping their dogs under control," Gardner Orton said.
The city and county require dogs to be on 6-foot leashes in parks and on trails.
Blackmer Drive begins in city limits and continues into the county on city-owned property, said Steamboat Springs Parks, Recreation and Open Space Director Chris Wilson.
The city will enforce the leash law on Blackmer Drive up to the quarry as well as on its own property behind Howelson Hill, he said.
But there's another, more serious reason for people to keep dogs on a tight leash. In Colorado, any dogs chasing, barking at or "worrying" livestock may be killed without warning.
A full-time sheepherder will keep track of the yearling sheep, owned by Tom Maneotis of Oak Creek. The sheep will stay in a pen at night for protection from wildlife and loose dogs.
Besides improving the land and keeping heavy brush to a minimum, the grazing sheep also will test the possibilities of recreation and agriculture existing in the same area, Gardner Orton said.
Because the sheep bed down in the shade during the day, there shouldn't be many problems between sheep and those recreating on Emerald Mountain, he said, noting that the herder will make sure the sheep are not in the way during mountain bike races held on Emerald Mountain.
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