Dogs and wildlife a dangerous combination, officials say
February 14, 2014
Steamboat Springs — In the wake of two recent incidents involving wildlife and dogs, officials are urging people to keep their pets under control.
On Thursday morning, a woman in the Steamboat Springs area was attacked by a moose while trying to save her dogs from the charging animal. The same day, a Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife officer euthanized an elk that appeared to have been injured by dogs.
"That's what dogs do when they get a hold of an elk or a deer," District Wildlife Manager Steve Baumgartner said after putting down his truck tailgate to reveal an elk carcass with a gruesome injury to its snout.
Baumgartner said he was surprised the elk had lived as long as it did. The female calf had been bleeding heavily after being attacked by a suspected dog and was taking advantage of a heated patio at a Routt County home.
Baumgartner said cases of dogs attacking wildlife happen more often than people realize — several times each year in Routt County alone, he said.
"This is the end result of that," Baumgartner said. "Dogs chasing wildlife isn't innocent play for the dogs. If they get ahold of (wildlife), they're very capable of killing them."
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According to a press release from Parks and Wildlife, people who do not control their pets face the possibility of steep fines and the loss of a beloved pet.
"The last thing any officer wants to do is to destroy someone's dog," Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde said in the press release.
"But pet owners should know that, because it is so harmful to wildlife, any law enforcement officer in Colorado is authorized by state statute to use whatever force is necessary to stop any dog that is chasing, injuring or killing a wild animal."
In addition to bite injuries, wildlife officials say dogs chasing wildlife can cause extreme stress for the wildlife.
"As they run to escape, deer and elk expend crucial energy that can lead to an increase in the mortality rate of the animals or their unborn calves and fawns," the release states.
According to Parks and Wildlife, the fine for knowingly or negligently allowing a dog to harass wildlife is $274.
When moose attack
Wildlife officials on Friday morning said the woman who was injured in the moose attack on Routt County Road 38A was at her home after being released from the hospital. The woman suffered a bad laceration to her groin, District Wildlife Manager Danielle Isenhart said.
The attack happened when the woman was walking her dogs off leash on C.R. 38A.
"One dog took off after the moose and wouldn't leave it alone," Isenhart said. "She went to try to grab her dog when the moose attacked her. She takes full blame for the attack and doesn't want anything to happen to the moose."
Isenhart said the moose likely was female, and it was the first time the woman had seen it in the area.
The incident was the third moose attack in the Steamboat area since September. The first attack occurred when a woman was walking her dogs on a trail along Fish Creek near The Sanctuary subdivision.
The second attack was reported within the past couple of weeks, a week after the incident occurred. Isenhart said a woman was walking two dogs off leash with her husband on private property at Storm Mountain Ranch.
Isenhart said the woman tried to get out of the way as a young female moose charged, and the moose hit her elbow.
Before the recent string of moose attacks, Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said he had never heard of a person being injured by a moose in this area during his 33-year career.
Isenhart attributed the rise in moose encounters to a growing number of moose coming over from the Jackson County side of the Continental Divide (Park Range). Moose were first reintroduced there from Wyoming in 1978 when a dozen were turned loose in the Walden area. That herd had grown to more than 500 animals by 2009.
"These moose are just expanding the range on their own," Isenhart said.
They also are coming into lower elevations such as areas in and around Steamboat.